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The number of workers applying for unemployment benefits from state unemployment programs fell below 1 million for the week ended August 8. At 963,000 the number was below the 1.18 million new claims for the week of August 1. Economists had expected initial claims of 1.1 million.

Continuing claims for unemployment dropped to 15.5 million for the week that ended in August 1. Economists had expected the number of continuing claims would drop to 15.8 million.

The drop from the heights of March, when nearly 7 million people filed initial claims for unemployment, is certainly good news.

But the weekly new claims level remains well north of the historic record high of 695,000 in 1982.  And with 15.5 million workers drawing continuing unemployment checks, we’re still mired in a recession.

Those unemployment checks are now smaller too with the July 31 expiration of the $600 in weekly enhanced benefits from earlier rounds of coronavirus rescue funding. Whether to restore that funding and at what level is a major sticking point in currently stalled negotiations for the next round of coronavirus stimulus/rescue aid.

One negative from the improved unemployment claims number is that it reduces pressure on Republicans in Congress and the White House to move ahead on a new stimulus package. Most economists fear that without new stimulus the economy will contract again.