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New unemployment claims remained high last week at 900,000

It’s the second straight week that many people have filed new claims, the first time that’s happened since August.
FILE - A man walks out of a Marc's Store on, Jan. 8 in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.  Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, lowering claims to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to further job cuts in a raging pandemic. [Tony Dejak | Associated Press]
FILE - A man walks out of a Marc's Store on, Jan. 8 in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, lowering claims to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to further job cuts in a raging pandemic. [Tony Dejak | Associated Press] [ TONY DEJAK | AP ]
Published Jan. 21
Updated Jan. 21

Another 900,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims during the last full week of Donald Trump’s presidency, the second straight week that figure had been at least that high.

The new numbers, released by the U.S. Department of Labor on the morning after Joe Biden’s inauguration, marked the first time since August that new job losses stayed above 900,000. The prior week’s revised tally was 926,000. That’s more than four times what it was this time a year ago.

In all, slightly more than 5 million Americans were receiving continued unemployment payments for the week ending Jan. 9, while nearly 16 million received some form of jobless benefit for the week ending Jan. 2. Both numbers are down from the weeks before, although they reflect weeks in which some states, including Florida, were still working out how to implement new policies of the federal government’s latest $900 billion economic stimulus and pandemic relief package.

Some new benefits have yet to be factored in. For example, Gov. Ron DeSantis has said Florida will adopt the package’s $100-per-week Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation for certain self-employed and gig workers. As of this week, the state has not yet said how it’ll work.

To date, more than $20.4 billion has now been paid to 2.18 million claimants in Florida, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity. Another 26,599 Floridians filed their first unemployment claims last week.

Those that have gone back to work have seen their wages slightly reduced. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Thursday released data showing that the median weekly wage for full-time workers fell to $983 per week during the fourth quarter of 2020, down from $996 and $1,009 in the previous two quarters. The workforce of full-time and salaried workers is down nearly 7 million from the end of 2019.

“Our economy is bouncing back,” state Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, the chairman of Florida’s new Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, said during a conference call Thursday with economic development leaders around Florida. “But there are so many people who lost jobs, and so many businesses who shuttered and who may never open again, and who won’t open again for sure, because of what we’ve done.”

With vaccines rolling out and more on the horizon, Burgess said keeping businesses open will be key to preventing unemployment from climbing.

“I think we’re already showing signs of recovery, which is good, and I think is evidence to the strength of where we were before this happened,” he said. “I think everyone is on the same page now, that we absolutely in no circumstance should go back to where we were before when we shut down our economy.”