Two Michigan women are decrying the expiration of a supplemental $600 weekly federal unemployment payment. (Aug. 7)

AP Domestic

Another wave of Americans likely sought unemployment benefits as the coronavirus flares and ebbs throughout the U.S., leaving many businesses in limbo.   

About 1 million people filed initial applications for unemployment insurance last week, economists estimate, a slight dip from the 1.1 million who applied the week before. 

The number seeking unemployment aid for the first time has been volatile, slightly dipping and rising, yet remaining stubbornly high — far above the previous record of 695,000 weekly claims set during an economic downturn in 1982. 

The see-sawing numbers reflect the stops and starts occurring throughout the U.S. economy, as businesses gradually reopen in some parts, while others roll back or halt re-openings as COVID-19 cases spike.

The overall number of Americans diagnosed with the virus has flattened after peaking in late April, but it continues to surge in parts of the country, recently rising fastest in several southern states as well as North and South Dakota.

“Though we are seeing a meaningful decline in new COVID-19 cases, the trends in economic indicators have not changed significantly,” BofA Global Research said in an investors note. “There continue to be signs that the recovery is slowing at best and at worst is reversing somewhat. We likely need to see daily COVID-19 cases decline much more significantly in order for gains in economic activity to accelerate meaningfully.”

While the need for jobless assistance grows, the amount recipients get in their weekly checks has shrunk dramatically. An extra $600 a week in federal aid ended in July and Congress has yet to agree on another extension.

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Democrats want to offer that same $600 amount into next year. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump issued a memorandum authorizing $300 a week in federal assistance. But unemployed workers who receive less than $100 in state aid won’t qualify for the extra federal benefit. 

That amounts to at least 1 million people, or roughly 6% of individuals receiving basic state unemployment, according to Eliza Forsythe, a labor economist and assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter @charissejones

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