While most economic data continue to show sequential improvement, the labor market has been slower to recover and the number of people seeking unemployment benefits remains very high. In the most recent week, initial jobless claims increased by 1.416 million, exceeding the prior week level of 1.307 million. In early July, the level of ongoing claims for regular state unemployment benefits remained elevated at more than 16 million. In addition, there were also several million people seeking benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Altogether, the total number of people seeking some form of unemployment benefits in early July were 31.8 million, or roughly 20% of the total labor force. Although the level of ongoing unemployment claims has been steadily declining over the past two months, the effects of the pandemic continue to weigh heavily on the labor market. With expanded pandemic-related unemployment benefits set to expire next week, the pressure to pass another round of fiscal relief is mounting.

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