(Reuters) – The number of Americans filing a new claim for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly back above the 1 million mark last week, a setback for a struggling U.S. job market crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 1.106 million for the week ended Aug. 15, from an upwardly revised 971,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 925,000 applications in the latest week.
The previous week’s level had marked the first time since March that new claims had registered below the 1 million level.
The extra $600 a week unemployment benefit lapsed on July 31. While President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that includes a provision extending the supplement at a reduced rate of $400 a week, there has been confusion over its implementation.
States are required to cover $100 of the benefits, but many governors have indicated they don’t have the financial capacity after revenues were decimated in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The remaining $300 will be funded from a limited emergency disaster relief program, which economists estimated could be depleted as early as September.
New COVID-19 infections continue to spread across the nation, forcing authorities in some of the most afflicted areas to either shut down businesses again or pause reopenings. The newest twist in the path of the outbreak includes the eruption of hot spots associated with some colleges reopening their campuses.
First-time claims peaked at a record 6.867 million in late March.
Thursday’s claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped to 14.844 million in the week ending Aug. 8 from a revised 15.480 million in the prior week.
The U.S. economy has regained only 9.3 million of the 22 million jobs lost between February and April.
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