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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 310,000, a pandemic low and a sign that the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant has yet to lead to widespread layoffs.
Thursday’s report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed jobless claims dropped from a revised total of 345,000 the week before. And at their current pace, weekly applications for benefits are edging toward their pre-pandemic figure of roughly 225,000.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. economic activity “downshifted” in July and August — in part because of a pullback in dining out, travel and tourism related to concerns about the delta variant.
Still, the ongoing drop in applications for unemployment aid — six declines in the past seven weeks — indicates that most companies are holding onto their workers despite the slowdown.
That trend should help sustain the economic rebound through the current wave of infections.
In Iowa, new claims increased for the fourth consecutive week, rising from 1,678 to 1,859. Continuing claims decreased, though, for the seventh consecutive week — falling from 13,159 to 11,562.
For comparison, Iowa at this time in 2020 reported 5,252 new claims and 70,953 continuing claims. At this time in 2019, the state had 1,787 new claims and 12,711 continuing claims.
Manufacturing was the largest source of new claims with 342, followed by construction with 247, self-employed and independent contractors with 237, and health care and social assistance with 135.
Linn and Johnson counties both saw increases in new claims and decreases in continuing claims.
Last week, the federal government reported that hiring slowed dramatically in August, with employers adding just 235,000 jobs after having added roughly a million in both June and July.
This week, more than 8 million people lost all their unemployment benefits with the expiration of two federal programs that covered gig workers and people who have been jobless for more than six months.
That national cutoff isn't yet reflected in the weekly jobless claims report. The report's data on the emergency programs is delayed by two weeks.
As of Aug. 21, 8.8 million people were receiving benefits from these two programs.
An additional 2.6 million people were receiving regular state unemployment aid. These recipients have just lost a $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement, which also expired this week.
Iowa halted those payments in June.