By Casey Harper | The Center Square
New unemployment claims increased again, last week, federal data released Thursday showed.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 351,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits for the week ending Sept. 18. That figure marks an increase of 16,000 claims from the previous week. Unemployment figures are currently lower than at other times in the pandemic but still remain significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.
“During the week ending September 4, 47 states reported 4,896,125 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 47 states reported 3,644,555 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits,” the Department of Labor said.
Federal unemployment benefits, though, have now expired. Economists expect unemployment rates to drop in the coming weeks, though so far it has only increased. President Joe Biden’s monthly child tax credit payments are another variable that could be affecting unemployment levels by funding some Americans enough that they do not need to return to work, but for now it is too early to tell.
The unemployment levels have varied across the country, but Democrat-led states topped the unemployment rates.
“The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending September 4 were in Puerto Rico (4.4), District of Columbia (4.2), California (3.1), New Jersey (3.0), Illinois (2.8), Nevada (2.8), New York (2.8), Rhode Island (2.7), Hawaii (2.5), and Connecticut (2.2),” the Department of Labor said. “The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending September 11 were in Louisiana (+4,318), District of Columbia (+3,783), Arizona (+3,739), Maryland (+2,018), and Missouri (+1,658), while the largest decreases were in Illinois (-7,481), California (-5,950), Ohio (-4,665), Texas (-3,635), and Virginia (-2,357).”
The federal unemployment payments have come under increasing scrutiny after some members of Congress estimate that as much as $400 billion of the program’s funding was lost to fraudsters.
As the debate over federal unemployment benefits and their impact on joblessness continues, one leading Democrat has proposed reinstating the federal payments.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., announced last week new legislation that would re-up the federal unemployment payments through Feb. 1, 2022. Those payments would also apply retroactively since their expiration at the beginning of this month.
“I’ve been very disappointed on both sides of the aisle that we’ve just simply allowed pandemic unemployment assistance to completely lapse when we are clearly not fully recovered from the consequences of the pandemic,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a virtual town hall earlier this month. “I simply could not let this happen without at least just trying.”