U.S. labor market struggling to regain momentum
The number of Americans filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased last week, raising the possibility of a second straight month of tepid job growth despite declining new COVID-19 infections.
The weekly unemployment claims report from the Labor Department on Thursday, the most timely data on the economy’s health, could add impetus to President Joe Biden’s push for a $1.9 trillion package to aid the recovery from the pandemic.
At least 18.3 million Americans were receiving unemployment checks at the end of January. Government-funded benefits for millions of these people will expire in mid-March unless Congress approves the Biden administration’s spending plan.
“Robust pandemic aid is precisely the medicine the economy needs to get Americans back where they want to be, at work,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 861,000 for the week ended Feb. 13. Data for the prior week was revised to show 55,000 more applications received than previously reported.
There were big jumps in filings in California and Illinois, while claims in Ohio remained elevated.