On an unadjusted basis, initial claims decreased to 984,192 nationwide, the first time since mid-March it dropped below 1 million. All states but Rhode Island, which showed little change, posted declines from the prior week. Even in states where coronavirus cases have been elevated, including California, Texas and Florida, applications for benefits fell in the latest week.

“I am almost as skeptical of the latest decline as I was of the previous uptick,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, said in a note. “In particular, I wonder if the looming expiration of the $600 weekly bonus somehow affected the count.”

In addition to applications for unemployment benefits in regular state programs, in the week ended Aug. 1, states reported 655,707 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the lowest since April. That’s the federal program extending unemployment benefits to those not typically eligible like the self-employed.

As the pandemic drags on, more and more people are beginning to claim Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, the federal program that provides up to 13 additional weeks of jobless benefits to those who have exhausted their regular benefits. While most states offer 26 weeks of benefits, others, such as Florida and North Carolina offer less than half of that. More than 1.1 million people were claiming the aid in the week ended July 18.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs increased to 31.3 million in the week ended July 18, though this figure likely reflects an overcount of reported PUA continued claims.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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