Clover Grill on Bourbon street closes until further notice in New Orleans, Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

New unemployment claims and existing claims both increased again last week, with more than 313,100 workers remaining on the unemployment rolls across Louisiana.

There were 32,079 first-time unemployment claims filed last week, up from 26,351 one week before. 

Existing unemployment claims increased to 313,117 as of last week, up from 312,893 one week before, the Louisiana Workforce Commission reported.

State officials shuttered bars in recent weeks in an attempt to curb the spike in new coronavirus cases and ease the squeeze on local health care systems. That move is being reflected in the unemployment claims, with first-time claims in the food services and accommodation sector jumping more than 6,100 last week.

Louisiana's trend is following a national trend. More than 1.4 million people applied for jobless benefits last week, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday, up from 1.3 million the previous week. That is the first increase since March and 18th straight week that it has topped 1 million.

The weakening of the labor market has raised fears the national economy will shed jobs again in July, after two sharp hiring gains in May and June.

“The labor market remains in a precarious place as COVID-19 cases surge in some parts of the country and fresh lockdown measures are adopted in response,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics, a consulting firm.

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Analysts say the economy can’t improve until authorities can control the spread of the virus, a need that is complicating the reopening of businesses and schools.

In Louisiana, retail trade was another significant driver with 3,567 new claims filed across the state last week. New unclassified claims totaled 3,141; health care and social assistance, 3,063; and construction, 2,897. 

By comparison to more typical filings, only 2,349 new claims were filed during the week ending July 20 last year. At the time, the state only had 17,688 total existing unemployment claims.

The total number of Americans receiving jobless benefits fell 1.1 million to 16.2 million. That was a hopeful sign that even as layoffs remain persistently high, some companies are recalling workers. Yet that figure is still roughly 10 times what it was before the pandemic.

The mass of unemployed workers for the past several months in Louisiana has put a significant strain on the state's unemployment fund, which is expected to run out of money by September. That doesn't immediately impact the claims of the unemployed but eventually it could lead to a situation where the state borrows money to cover claims, businesses pay higher taxes for unemployment insurance and claim benefits drop below $247 each week in 2021.

Congress is negotiating another aid package that could extend extra federal unemployment support, though likely at less than $600 recipients had received weekly on top of their state payments. With the extra $600, roughly two-thirds of the unemployed are receiving more in aid than they earned at their former jobs, research has shown — a finding that’s led to observations that it is discouraging people from returning to work.

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