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How many Americans have claimed unemployment benefits this month?

Initial state unemployment insurance claims dropped in the week ending 6 March but an equal number filed initial claim for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

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How many Americans have claimed unemployment benefits this month?
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP

There was a light of hope this week with the signing of the American Rescue Plan on Thursday by President Biden, which will extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans still out of work. The US economy is still clawing its way back from the depths of the collapse of the labor market when the covid-19 pandemic was declared one year ago.

Unemployment still remains stubbornly high with over 9 million jobs less than before the pandemic struck. Just as over 2 million jabs to inoculate against covid-19 are being given on average, soon the US economy will gets its own shot in the arm. The White House said that the first wave of $1,400 stimulus checks will begin appearing in bank accounts this weekend.

What is the current unemployment?

The unemployment rate in February 2021 was 6.2%, compared to 3.5% the same time last year.

A total of 712,000 workers filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the week that ended 6 March, 42,000 less than the week before. However, last week's numbers, which were revised upwards, saw new claims rise in total by 28,000. The jump in the week ending in 27 February was blamed on the winter storms in Texas.

The reduction in first-time state unemployment claims was matched by a nearly equal rise in first time claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which covers the self-employed, gig workers, part-timers and others who are not able to receive regular state unemployment benefits. The US Labor Department data registered 478,001 new PUA claims, up 41,863.

The unemployment rate may be much higher

There are currently 10 million people out of work according to the US Department of Labor. However last month both Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, both said that the real number of people out of work could be much higher. Instead of 6.2% the real unemployment rate could be closer to 10%, or over 16 million. However, it is hard to tell exactly how many Americans are jobless at any given time, an especially in these abnormal times.

This is due to the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics does the numbers. The rate is calculated by tallying up how many Americans are actively looking for work or are on temporary layoff midway through each month. That number is then taken as a share of the civilian labor force to report the official unemployment rate. This leaves out those that who are not applying for a job because they are discouraged or waiting for the right opportunity.