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Jobless claims in Ohio fall for 3rd straight week

The number of laid-off Ohioans who applied for jobless benefits shrunk again last week, marking three consecutive weeks and eight of the last 10 where there was a decline, according to the latest figures from the state.

Across the U.S., however, the number was unchanged last week at 884,000, evidence the viral outbreak refuses to release its grip on the economy six months after it first grabbed hold and sent layoffs soaring to previously unseen numbers.

There were 17,983 Ohioans who sought aid last week, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which releases jobless claims numbers each Thursday. That’s down from 18,719 and 18,988 for the two prior weeks.

In the last 25 weeks, 1.68 million claims have been filed, more than the last four years combined.

Ohioans filed 328,515 continued claims last week, about 42 percent less than the peak of 447,787 earlier this year, according to Ohio JFS. It also was the eighth week in a row the number of continuing claims fell and ninth in the last 10 with a decrease.

Thursday’s figures from the U.S. Labor Department coincide with other recent evidence the job market’s improvement may be weakening after solid gains through spring and most of summer. The number of people seeking jobless aid each week still far exceeds the number who did so in any week on record before this year.

Hiring has slowed since June, and a rising number of laid-off workers now say they regard their job loss as permanent. The number of people who are continuing to receive state unemployment benefits rose last week, after five weeks of declines, to 13.4 million, evidence that employers aren’t hiring enough to offset layoffs.

New claims have flattened out between 800,000 and 900,000 per week in August and into September, Gus Faucher, chief economist for Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank, said.

“Although layoffs have slowed since the worst of the pandemic, they remain extremely high as some businesses that tried to reopen have closed again, and others are reducing their workforces because of reduced long-term demand in the face of the ongoing pandemic,” Faucher said.

“Continuing claims tell a similar story. Including special pandemic programs put in place in the spring, almost 30 million people were receiving some form of unemployment insurance benefits in August,” he said. This compares to 1.6 million people at the same time in 2019, so the number of UI (unemployment insurance) beneficiaries is 18 times higher than it was a year ago.”

Trumbull County last week recorded 292 new claims, up three from the week before, pushing the total above 30,000. There were 5,411 continued claims, down from 5,775 the prior week.

Mahoning County last week had 337 new claims, down from 357 the prior week, increasing the total to more than 35,000. There were 6,400 continued claims, down from 6,684 the prior week.

Hiring likely will remain restrained as long as Americans are unable or reluctant to resume their normal habits of shopping, traveling, dining out and engaging in other commerce. The rate of reported infections has dropped over the past several weeks but remains well above where it was during the spring. Most analysts say the economy likely won’t be able to sustain a recovery until a vaccine is widely available.

Last week, the government reported the nation gained 1.4 million jobs in August, down from 1.7 million in July. It was the lowest monthly gain since hiring resumed in May. The unemployment rate sank from 10.2 percent to 8.4 percent, a drop that economists said mainly reflected businesses recalling workers who temporarily had been laid off rather than hiring new employees.

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