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Unemployment insurance claims make biggest jump since March

Retail sales fall for third month in row
By Masao Suzuki |
January 16, 2021
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San José, CA - The U.S. economy showed more signs of weakness as the COVID-19 pandemic rages and Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine rollout crashes and burns amid finger-pointing, lies and incompetence. New claims for regular state unemployment rose by more than 20% in the week ending January 9, the biggest gain since the dark days of March when the economy hit a brick wall.

The number of people actually collecting benefits also rose by 200,000 for the week ending January 2, despite more and more people being timed out of the regular state unemployment insurance programs which only pay out for six months. This was the first increase since November.

The number of new claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, for self-employed and gig workers jumped by 75%, also for the week ending January 9. However much of this increase was because the PUA, along with the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, for workers who have been timed out of regular state unemployment benefits, was allowed to lapse at the end of the year because of opposition to aid in the Republican Senate. Jobless workers who would have applied during the previous week had to wait until the programs restarted.

The increase in unemployment insurance claims was broad based, with 36 states reporting increases. This weakness in the economy follows earlier reports that 140,000 net jobs were lost in December, and that online job postings fell towards the end of December. The report on retail sales for December fell again, for the third monthly drop in a row. In addition, the data on retail sales for November was revised down to a larger fall.

While unemployment insurance claims have fallen, the rate of absenteeism because of illness or family illness or lack of childcare has not. About 1.9 million workers were reported absent in December, almost the same as the 2.0 million in April during the first surge in the pandemic.

No wonder as the COVID-19 pandemic continues at record levels, with hundreds of thousands of new infections each day and daily deaths spiking to over 4000. The much hoped for rapid rollout of the vaccine has been a mess, with the latest news that the Trump administration held up plans for vaccine distribution for two months in September and October, paving the way for the chaos seen today. The lies continue from the Trump administration up to the very end, as the so-called “second dose vaccine reserves” that were to be distributed turned out to be non-existent - they had already been given out.

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