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1.3 million file first-time claims for jobless benefits

Town and Country shopping center at Stroop Road and Far Hills Avenue. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Town and Country shopping center at Stroop Road and Far Hills Avenue. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Just over 1.3 million people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the the week ending July 4, a decrease of 99,000 from the previous week, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

The new number confirms the ongoing trend of a falling but still greatly elevated number of Americans seeking unemployment insurance benefits.

It was the 15th consecutive week with new or initial benefits claims numbering above one million.

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Applications for the benefits have remained stubbornly lodged between 1 million and 2 million since May, indicating a recovery — but a slow one.

Scott Murray, an economist at Nationwide, said the new numbers “show the labor market is the process of healing.”

“The decrease emphasizes that firms are slowing their efforts to right-size operations, lessening the linkage of jobless and weak consumer demand,” Murray said. “For displaced workers, the decline in claims reduced the backlog of those looking to reenter the workforce, another positive.”

In Ohio, the state’s Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said that for the 10th straight week, continued applications for unemployment benefits declined.

In Montgomery County, for the week ending July 4, there were 1,639 first-time claims for unemployment benefits, with 21,106 claims continuing from previous weeks.

In Warren County, there were 454 initial claims, with 6,356 claims continuing. In neighboring Butler County, those respective numbers were 863 and 12,752.

Clark County saw 360 new claims and 4,301 continuing claims.

Across all of Ohio, those who remain jobless filed 347,587 fewer continued claims last week compared to the peak in April. For the week ending July 4, ODJFS reported 33,483 initial jobless claims.

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The total number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 16 weeks (1,464,290) is more than the combined total of those filed during the last three years.

Over the last 16 weeks, Ohio has distributed more than $4.9 billion in unemployment compensation to more than 736,000 Ohioans.

Nationally, continued claims by workers who have filed claims for at least two straight weeks were just over 18 million.

The labor market has a long road ahead to fully heal as total claims now top 45 million since the COVID-19 shutdowns began, Murray said.

“Numerous individuals are being called back to work, showing that firms have regained confidence in the economy,” he said. “Still, most industries report that only a fraction of displaced employees have been returned to their positions, and the labor market remains vulnerable to concerns about the rise in cases. The trend, however, suggests the worst of the job losses have passed.”

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An abandoned desk chair at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street during the 5 p.m. evening rush hour on March 17, 2020, in Chicago's Loop. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
An abandoned desk chair at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street during the 5 p.m. evening rush hour on March 17, 2020, in Chicago's Loop. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Credit: Brian Cassella

Credit: Brian Cassella