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New LI unemployment claims fell 25% last week, state labor department reports

A cyclist passes the shuttered Sayville Florist on

A cyclist passes the shuttered Sayville Florist on Railroad Avenue. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

New jobless claims on the Island fell by more than 25% last week, in line with a smaller dip in the national numbers, state and federal data shows.

Last week, 7,505 Long Islanders filed new claims for unemployment benefits, a decline of 25.5% from the week before, the state Labor Department reported Thursday. More than 10,000 Islanders had sought jobless aid two weeks ago.

Unemployment claims during the same week in 2020 hit 1,783.

Nationwide, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by about 2.3% last week, to 793,000, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. The national claims rate is evidence that job cuts remain high despite a substantial decline in new confirmed viral infections.

The numbers point to a still-elevated number of layoffs. Before the virus erupted in the United States in March, weekly applications for jobless aid had never topped 700,000.

The job market has essentially stalled in the last two months. In December and January combined, U.S. employers cut 178,000 jobs. Nearly 10 million jobs nationwide remain lost to the pandemic.

Thursday's government report also showed a sizable rise in the total number of Americans who are receiving jobless aid, including through extended benefit programs — a sign that long-term unemployment may be growing. All told, 20.4 million people were receiving benefits in the week that ended Jan. 23, the latest period for which data is available. That’s up sharply from 17.8 million from the week before. Part of that increase likely reflects the processing of a rush of claims after the extension of two federal aid programs just after Christmas.

The job market’s persistent weakness is fueling President Joe Biden’s push for a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package. Biden’s proposal would extend, through August, two federal unemployment benefit programs that are set to expire in mid-March. His proposal would also raise the federal unemployment benefit to $400 a week from the current $300.

A driving force behind the Biden administration’s push for more aid is the impending expiration of the extended jobless benefits in barely more than a month. Unlike the previous expiration of extended unemployment aid, which occurred on Dec. 26, the cut-off would be phased in between March 14 and April 11.

"The clock is again ticking for millions of Americans on the edge of a fiscal cliff, facing the threat of a mid-March cut-off of increased and extended unemployment benefits," Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate said in a statement.

"This is why the Biden administration and supporters in Congress are pressing for further, broader economic relief or stimulus," he said.

With Victor Ocasio

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