The number of Americans applying for jobless aid barely budged last week — a troubling sign that the country's economic recovery may be slowing.
Nearly 1.5 million Americans filed for initial unemployment benefits in the week ending June 20, a drop of 60,000 from the previous week. Another 728,000 filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new federal program for self-employed and gig workers. That figure dropped by about 40,000 from the week before.
While the number of people filing for jobless aid has declined every week since peaking in mid-March, the drop has been slower than economists would like. Applications for jobless aid have surpassed 1 million for 14 straight weeks, with claims more than twice as high as the worst week during the Great Recession.
"The chart shows that initial claims are now barely falling, after dropping sharply in April and May," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics. "This is bad enough, but a renewed increase would serve to emphasize the importance of extending enhanced unemployment benefits, which currently are scheduled to expire at the end of July."
More troubling, the number of people receiving continued unemployment benefits rose by 1.3 million in the week ending June 6, the latest for which data is available.
In May, employers added 2.5 million jobs, and the nation's unemployment rate fell from 14.7% to 13.3%. But experts warn that the economy and job market may struggle to sustain their recent gains amid the surge in new viral infections in southern and western states, which could cause a new round of business shutdowns.
With reporting by The Associated Press.