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Jobless claims in state, nation begin to inch up

By RON SELAK JR.

Staff writer

The number of laid-off Ohioans seeking jobless benefits inched above the 21,000 mark last week, after four straight weeks of declines.

Out-of-work Americans asking for help rose to 1.1 million — ending two weeks of declines.

Combined, it’s evidence that many employers continue to cut jobs amid the viral outbreak, which over 22 weeks now has left the economy in shambles despite signs of some recovery.

“Claims exploded in March as the coronavirus pandemic hit and states started to restrict economic activity, and then steadily declined from May through mid-July as layoffs abated,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist for Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank. “Since then initial claims have been more uneven, sometimes falling, sometimes rising, but the general trend is slightly down. This indicates that layoffs are slowing, but that involuntary unemployment remains extremely elevated.”

“Continuing claims show a similar picture. The amount of unemployment in the U.S. economy is gradually falling, but is still very high, and the pace of improvement is slowing. It could be that the increase in cases of coronavirus in many parts of the country over the summer has weighed on the recovery in the labor market,” Faucher said.

Thursday’s report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services shows Ohioans last week filed 21,663 initial claims — 252,552 fewer than the peak in late March. Still, in the last 5 1/2 months, 1.6 million claims have been filed. That’s more claims than the last four years combined, according to the state.

Ohioans last week filed 359,585 continuing claims, which was 416,717 fewer than the high point earlier this year.

Trumbull County reported 394 new claims last week, pushing the county’s total to 29,311, and 6,177 continued claims, down from 6,568 the prior week.

In Mahoning County, 418 new claims were filed for a total of 34,257 new claims. There were 7,392 continued claims last week and 7,562 the previous week.

NATIONAL DATA

The total number of people receiving unemployment aid declined last week from 15.5 million to 14.8 million, the government said Thursday. New jobless claims the previous week fell to 971,000, marking the first time since March claims fell below 1 million.

Faucher said it remains too soon to tell if the expiration of the extra $600 federal unemployment insurance benefit has impacted the labor market. Those benefits, though, reduce household income by about $700 million a month and “could become a drag on the recovery as some consumers are forced to cut back on their spending.”

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to provide $300 per week in federal unemployment aid, with money drawn from a disaster relief fund. Twenty-five states have said they will apply for the federal money, though they would need to revamp their computer systems to do so. Other states are still considering whether to take that step; two have said they won’t.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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