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Half of U.S. States Ended Federal Covid-Related Jobless Benefits Early. Here Is How They Compare With the Other Half.

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The number of Americans filing applications for jobless benefits continues to decline to the lowest levels since the economy shut down last year, though claims are still elevated compared with pre-pandemic levels. As many return to work, the amount of federal Covid-era benefits that unemployed people are receiving has splintered from one state to the next.

In response to the catastrophic effect that pandemic lockdowns had on the U.S. job market, the federal government created programs in the past year that expanded the pool of unemployed workers eligible for benefits, extended the length of time Americans can receive payments and enhanced weekly payments, most recently by $300 a person.

The federally funded programs are scheduled to expire in early September, but states have the option to opt out before then, and roughly half already have on some level. Governors in those states have argued that expanded benefits have contributed to labor shortages as the economy reopens. Others have defended the continuation of pandemic programs, citing workers’ health concerns and lack of child care as major reasons businesses have had trouble filling openings.

The rift has divided America’s workers into two groups, one that is losing or has lost access to federal pandemic unemployment programs and another that will continue to receive billions of dollars in weekly benefits until they expire in September.

Difficulty matching unemployed workers with job openings

The number of U.S. job openings rose to 9.2 million as of May, which was a new high in records dating back to 2000.

The job openings rate, which is the number of openings as a percentage of total employment plus openings, was at 6% in May, up from 4.7% in January. The rate for leisure and hospitality occupations was at 9%, a reflection of how hotels and restaurants have had trouble filling jobs as they reopen.

Average hourly wages for service employees in those industries have risen, an indication that hotel and food-services employers need to pay more to attract workers.

Many governors who have moved to discontinue some or all of the federally funded pandemic jobless programs have pointed to problems businesses are having with filling open positions. Some states have replaced federal programs with state programs intended to increase incentive for people to return to work. President Biden and Treasury Secretary

Janet Yellen

have played down the impact of expanded benefits on the labor shortage.

Federal funding to states, by program, through July 10, 2021

26 STATES OPTING OUT OF

ONE OR MORE PROGRAMS

24 STATES WITH PROGRAMS

DUE TO EXPIRE SEPT. 6

FEDERAL PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (FPUC)

Increases the weekly payment that a recipient of regular state benefits gets by $300 a week. The amount of the supplement changed during the pandemic.

PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE (PUA)

The program makes benefits available to self-employed and other workers not typically eligible.

PANDEMIC EMERGENCY UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (PEUC)

Provides additional payments to people who exhausted other programs.

Federal funding to states, by program, through July 10, 2021

26 STATES OPTING OUT OF

ONE OR MORE PROGRAMS

24 STATES WITH PROGRAMS

DUE TO EXPIRE SEPT. 6

FEDERAL PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (FPUC)

Increases the weekly payment that a recipient of regular state benefits gets by $300 a week. The amount of the supplement changed during the pandemic.

PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE (PUA)

The program makes benefits available to self-employed and other workers not typically eligible.

PANDEMIC EMERGENCY UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (PEUC)

Provides additional payments to people who exhausted other programs.

Federal funding to states, by program, through July 10, 2021

26 STATES OPTING OUT OF

ONE OR MORE PROGRAMS

24 STATES WITH PROGRAMS

DUE TO EXPIRE SEPT. 6

FEDERAL PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (FPUC)

Increases the weekly payment that a recipient of regular state benefits gets by $300 a week. The amount of the supplement changed during the pandemic.

PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE (PUA)

The program makes benefits available to self-employed and other workers not typically eligible.

PANDEMIC EMERGENCY UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (PEUC)

Provides additional payments to people who exhausted other programs.

Federal funding to states, by program,

through July 10, 2021

26 STATES OPTING

OUT OF ONE OR

MORE PROGRAMS

24 STATES WITH

PROGRAMS DUE

TO EXPIRE SEPT. 6

FEDERAL PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT

COMPENSATION (FPUC)

Increases the weekly payment that a recipient of regular state benefits gets by $300 a week. The amount of the supplement changed during the pandemic.

PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT

ASSISTANCE (PUA)

The program makes benefits available to self-employed and other workers not typically eligible.

PANDEMIC EMERGENCY UNEMPLOYMENT

COMPENSATION (PEUC)

Provides additional payments to people who exhausted other programs.

Federal funding to states, by program,

through July 10, 2021

26 STATES OPTING

OUT OF ONE OR

MORE PROGRAMS

24 STATES WITH

PROGRAMS DUE

TO EXPIRE SEPT. 6

FEDERAL PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT

COMPENSATION (FPUC)

Increases the weekly payment that a recipient of regular state benefits gets by $300 a week. The amount of the supplement changed during the pandemic.

PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT

ASSISTANCE (PUA)

The program makes benefits available to self-employed and other workers not typically eligible.

PANDEMIC EMERGENCY UNEMPLOYMENT

COMPENSATION (PEUC)

Provides additional payments to people who exhausted other programs.

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