October 29, 2020

Unemployment claims are continuing to sink, but they're still far above even pre-pandemic records.

Around 751,000 Americans filed unemployment claims for the first time last week, Labor Department numbers released Thursday revealed. That's down 40,000 from the week before, marking a continuing slide in the final jobs report before the election.

Jobless claims hit an overwhelming record high in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have largely decreased since then. But their decline has slowed over the past few months as the pandemic continues — and starts to worsen again. Congress has also failed to agree on a COVID-19 relief package that could extend loans to businesses that would let them rehire workers, as well as boost the amount of benefits unemployed people receive.

Also growing in the past week are the number of people applying for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the first time. More than 360,000 people filed for PUA benefits, which Congress created to help gig workers, the self-employed, and others not eligible for typical unemployment. Meanwhile continued jobless claims decreased 709,000 to 7.8 million in the week. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 1, 2018

The unemployment rate in the U.S. has fallen to its lowest point in 18 years, additionally shrinking the gap between black unemployment and white unemployment, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Black unemployment is down to 5.9 percent, while white unemployment is at 3.5 percent — the smallest gap between the two rates ever recorded.

The overall rate is at an 18-year low, at 3.8 percent. The economy added 223,000 jobs in May, even more than economists predicted. Unemployment has fallen steadily since the Great Recession, reports CNN Money, after peaking at 10 percent in 2009.

President Trump has often touted his administration's success in bringing down the unemployment rate for black Americans and other minorities, and he took to Twitter to preview today's good news. The black unemployment rate has fallen from 7.8 percent to 5.9 percent since Trump took office, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reports. Data shows that between 2010 and 2017, the rate fell from a peak of 16.8 percent to 7.8 percent.

There has always been a significant gap between black and white unemployment rates, reports The Washington Post, but May's numbers show the smallest gap ever, since the government started recording racial data in the 1970s. Summer Meza

May 29, 2015

Europe is taking a rather unorthodox approach to the problem of long-term unemployment, according to The New York Times, by creating networks of fake businesses. While engaged in no actual economic activity, the routines of these fake businesses provide unemployed Europeans with the chance to keep up habits, skill sets, social connections, and a sense of purpose. Their incomes come from Europe's social safety net programs, in particular jobless benefits — though these often replace only a fraction of a previous salary.

The idea for the fake businesses got its start in Europe after World War II, when many people needed to learn new skills. Now there are 5,000 of them across the continent, pretending to be engaged in everything from selling pets to providing office furniture.

Years after the 2008 collapse, large swaths of Europe remain mired in economic sclerosis. In 2014, just over half of the continent's unemployed had been without work for a year or more, and many had been without work for two years. Jeff Spross

May 8, 2015

While the April jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed just 5.4 percent unemployment, a less noticed figure paints a grimmer picture: The labor force participation rate stayed low, at 62.8 percent, and a record 93,194,000 Americans are not in the labor force. This participation rate has stayed essentially the same for about a year, though the total count of people outside the labor force has increased.

The distinction between "unemployed" and "not in the labor force" can seem like a matter of semantics, but it's actually pretty significant. To be unemployed, according to the BLS, means you are an adult who does "not have a job, [has] actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and [is] currently available for work."

To be out of the labor force is to be an adult who does not have a job and is not looking for one. That category could include people who don't want a job because they're retired or staying home to raise children, but it also includes people who would like to work but have become so discouraged in the job-seeking process that they've stopped looking altogether. Bonnie Kristian

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