- Initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, fell sharply last week.
- Half the number of self-employed and gig workers applied for unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department, suggesting an improved labor market.
- However, that drop isn’t real — it only occurred on paper, according to economists.
Self-employed and gig workers applied for unemployment benefits last week at half the level from the week prior, according to Labor Department data reported Thursday.
That suggests a strong rebound, breaking from persistently high — even increasing — levels in recent weeks.
But that rebound likely didn’t happen. It only occurred on paper, experts say.
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Initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — a temporary federal program paying benefits to gig and other workers ineligible for state aid — fell to about 161,000 last week. The week prior, around 310,000 workers applied for PUA benefits.
Economists and unemployment experts offered a few explanations as to why the drop occurred.
The sharp decline likely relates to the timing of a recent $900 billion Covid relief package, administrative blips among states and worker behavior, they said.
It also comes against a backdrop of stubbornly high claims for benefits in other unemployment programs. Overall, more than 1 million Americans applied for aid last week.
“The 50% drop in initial claims is nothing to take at face value,” Elizabeth Pancotti, a policy advisor at Employ America, a progressive group, said on Twitter.