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Number of Americans seeking unemployment aid is rising

29 million Americans still on unemployment
More than 29 million Americans still on unemployment benefits 05:58

The number of Americans applying for unemployment assistance rose in the first week of September, a signal of the labor market is losing speed as the economy continues to suffer from the effects of the coronavirus.

Just over 857,000 workers applied for first-time unemployment aid in the week ending September 5, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's up 20,000 from the week before, continuing last week's trend of rising claims. On an adjusted basis, 884,000 people filed initial claims last week.

Nearly 839,000 additional Americans applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new federal program for self-employed workers. Jobless applications for self-employed people have steadily risen over the last month.

The expiration of an extra $600 in weekly benefits hasn't seemed to slow the rate of layoffs, alarming economists. 

"The improvement in U.S. labor markets has lost momentum, likely because of the earlier flare-up in infections and new restrictions to contain the virus," Sal Guatieri, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, in a note to investors.

Including people who were collecting extended unemployment benefits, some 29 million Americans — about one in five of workers in the labor force — were receiving jobless aid in the week ended August 22. That number rose 380,000 from the previous week.

"This is indicative of the ongoing disruptive nature of the virus that continues to interrupt activity, resulting in job losses," Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics said in a report. "The risk now comes from another round of virus outbreaks in coming weeks. The labor market remains at risk of permanent damage which will prolong the path back to pre-pandemic levels."

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