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Jobless claims on LI rose nearly 3.2% last week as benefit extensions creep closer to expiring

Jobless claims are inching upward, as economic uncertainty

Jobless claims are inching upward, as economic uncertainty mounts and microcluster areas on LI face a possible second lockdown.  Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Jobless claims on Long Island rose for the third week in a row last week, according to state data released Wednesday.

The number of initial unemployment claims on the Island rose to 4,694, up nearly 3.2% from the previous week’s count of 4,549, the state Labor Department said. While weekly claims remain well below their heights earlier in the pandemic, when the number of Long Islanders seeking jobless aid hit more than 59,000 during a single week in April, claims remain much higher than normal.

During the same week last year, claims on the Island hit 1,885.

While it's hard to say exactly what may be causing the recent week-to-week increases, it is clear the region and the country overall are in a period of great uncertainty, said Richard Vogel, dean of the school of business and professor of economics at Farmingdale State College.

"It’s hard to say where we’re headed right now," Vogel said. Between rising COVID cases, uncertainty over whether Congress will provide appropriate stimulus, and the fear of another lockdown, "there is continued uncertainty with where the economy is going."

Additionally, Vogel said, many unemployed and underemployed Americans are facing the upcoming expiration of federal programs that extended the timeline of unemployment payments.

"We’re a consumption economy," he said. "If households don’t have enough income to be able to fully consume like they normally would, that will create a drag on the economy."

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, a funding mechanism created as part of the federal CARES Act, extends benefits by up to 13 weeks past New York’s normal 26 weeks of unemployment aid. That extension expires two days after Christmas on Dec. 27.

However, because New York’s unemployment rate has met a predetermined threshold, the state qualifies for an additional federal extension of up to 20 more weeks.

Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to extend and renew unemployment boosting programs that have either expired or, like PEUC, are set to expire at the end of the year.

"Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic and should once again take action before the calendar year ends to bring badly needed support to millions of struggling Americans," Cuomo said in a statement.

"As we enter the holiday season, and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop COVID, critical federal unemployment benefits are about to expire," he said. "Inaction from Washington is putting millions of Americans' financial security at risk."

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