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Job growth continues to slow in August

Unemployment insurance benefit numbers paint a bleaker picture of labor market
By Masao Suzuki |
September 6, 2020
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San José, CA - The August jobs report released by the Department of Labor on Friday, September 4 showed that job growth continues to slow. The number of new jobs has gone from 4.8 million in June to 1.8 million in July to only 1.4 million in August. The August figure was even weaker because over 200,000 of these new jobs were temporary 2020 Census jobs. So far, the economy has gained back only half the jobs lost in March and April.

The total number of people collecting the regular state unemployment insurance or benefits, the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers and the self-employed, the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for those whose regular unemployment insurance benefits have run out, and other smaller programs, was still at 29.2 million in mid-August when the jobs and unemployment surveys were done.

This is about 20% of the entire labor force, much higher than the official unemployment rate that fell to 8.4% in August. The total UI claims didn’t peak until June, with 31.5 million people getting benefits. This total fell by 1.3 million in July, and then another 1 million in July, showing a similar pattern of slowing gains. But both the PUA and PEUC benefits for the more than 20 million people who lost their jobs or livelihood at the beginning of the recession will start to expire in January, cutting off a lifeline for them.

There was also the continued rise in the number of jobless who said that their layoff was permanent. Those not on temporary layoff have gone from 11% of the unemployed in April to 30% in August. With more and more companies announcing layoffs, and more and more small businesses quietly shutting down, this proportion is likely to rise. People are also remaining unemployed for longer; the average period or unemployment has gone from two weeks at the beginning of the pandemic to over 20 weeks in August.

Higher unemployment rates for oppressed nationalities continued despite the job gains. While the official unemployment rate for white Americans fell below 10% in July, in August it was still higher for African Americans, Chicanos and Latinos, and Asian Americans.

African Americans still had the highest unemployment rate in August of 13%, while for the first time ever the unemployment rate for Asian Americans actually was higher than the rate for Chicanos and Latinos.

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