The number of unemployment claims nationwide fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
There were 963,000 unemployment claims filed in the week ending August 8, below the four-week average of 1.2 million, according to the Department of Labor.
While that’s far below the peak in March, it remains above the worst week on record from before the pandemic. That was in 1982, when 695,000 people filed for unemployment insurance.
In addition, another 489,000 people applied for unemployment benefits through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which covers people who don’t qualify for state unemployment, such as freelancers, independent contractors and self-employed workers, according to The New York Times.
Meanwhile, the rate of new jobs has slowed, with 1.8 million jobs added in July, per the Labor Department, compared with 4.8 million in June.
The unemployment rate was 10.2 percent in July, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And last month most jobless Americans saw their unemployment benefits slashed as the federal stimulus program that added $600 in weekly benefits expired on July 31.
A new federal stimulus bill, which has been under debate in Congress for months, could extend those benefits. Democrats initially proposed extending the $600 supplemental benefit for another six months, while Republicans’ most recent bid was to offer $200 in extra benefits per week until October, and a percentage of wages thereafter.