Claims that pandemic benefits have slowed job growth are false, but while promising data on retail sales and inflation offered some hope for an improving economy, Wall Street remained uncertain which direction markets will head as concerns about the coronavirus delta variant linger, dulling any major optimism among investors.
The federal government ended its enhanced unemployment and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program payments last week— the largest cutoff of federal benefits in U.S. history.
Those funds helped millions of Americans ride out the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Those unemployment benefit cuts will reduce annual incomes by $144.3 billion, which is likely to drive consumer spending down by $79.2 billion.
In March 2020, as the economic impact of the pandemic spread quickly, Congress expanded unemployment insurance (UI) benefits by providing $600 (and later, $300) supplements, extending benefit periods, and making previously excluded workers—such as independent contractors and those with low incomes—eligible for UI.
About half of states prematurely terminated these programs between June and late July 2021, and then, by letting the federal law expire in September, Congress and the White House cut off pandemic UI entirely.
Although the Biden administration allowed states to use emergency funds to maintain those benefits, Governor Phil Murphy refused to continue payments to nearly half a million residents, putting New Jersey’s $10 billion share of that money to other purposes.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported a rise in retail and food service sales, from $614 billion in July to $618 billion last month, while a smaller increase in inflation than predicted made the rise in the cost of living recede for the third-straight month.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployment rates were lower in August in 15 states and the District of Columbia and stable in 35 states.
Forty-nine states and the District had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier and one state was little changed.
The national unemployment rate, 5.2 percent, declined by 0.2 percentage point over the month and was 3.2 points lower than in August 2020.
Experts have predicted an explosion in applications for food assistance and private charity as many people continue to struggle because of the distorted economic situation that has been brewing for 40 years, depressed conditions remaining from the Great Recession, the immediate lagging recovery and a surge in COVID-19 cases.
About 11 million people were receiving $600 per week in unemployment benefits, but nearly 8.9 million of them will no longer receive any unemployment payments while another 2.1 million will see their income reduced by $300 a week.
Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 11 states, decreased in 3 states, and was
essentially unchanged in 36 states and the District of Columbia in August 2021.
Over the year, 49 states and the District added nonfarm payroll jobs and one state
was essentially unchanged.
Civilian labor force and unemployment data modeled based largely on a survey of households shows Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in August, 7.7 percent, followed by California and New York, 7.5 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.
Nebraska had the lowest jobless rate, 2.2 percent, which was also a new series low for the state.
In total, 22 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 5.2 percent, 13 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 15 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.
In August, Arizona, Louisiana, and New Mexico had the largest over-the-month unemployment rate decreases (-0.4 percentage point each). Thirty-five states had jobless rates that were not notably different from those of a month earlier, though some had changes that were at least as large numerically as the significant changes.
Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 11 states, decreased in 3 states, and was essentially unchanged in 36 states and the District of Columbia in August 2021.
The largest job gains occurred in California (+104,300), Texas (+39,300), and New York (+23,500). The largest percentage increases occurred in Kentucky (+1.1 percent), Nevada (+0.9 percent), and New Mexico (+0.7 percent). Employment decreased in North Carolina (-13,200, or -0.3 percent), Iowa (-6,500, or -0.4 percent), and Hawaii (-5,700, or -1.0 percent).
Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 49 states and the District of
Columbia and remained essentially unchanged in 1 state. The largest job increases
occurred in California (+874,300), Texas (+681,000), and New York (+411,100). The
largest percentage increases occurred in Hawaii (+9.4 percent), Nevada (+8.3 percent),
and Vermont (+6.4 percent). (See table E.)
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