The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits for the week ended January 23 jumped 2.6 million to 20.4 million, data from the Labor Department showed Thursday.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday raised the alarm about the labor market, saying that the real unemployment rate was probably as high as 10 percent rather than the official 6.4 percent. He called for a “society-wide” effort to bring the labor market back to the strength it had pre-pandemic.
Yet on the Democrat-controlled Capitol Hill, lawmakers this week have been focused on impeaching former President Donald Trump. The Biden White House’s pandemic relief proposal has been sidelined while the Senate trial continues.
There are 5.1 million Americans on regular state unemployment benefits. An additional 8.7 million are receiving benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is available to freelancers and self-employed workers. Nearly 4.8 million are receiving benefits under the Pandemic Emergency program and 1.6 million under the extended benefits program.
A year ago, before the pandemic struck, there were just 2.2 million Americans receiving unemployment benefits.