Millions are giving up the extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits to go back to work, data shows

by Ariana Allison

The total number of Americans currently receiving unemployment benefits—called ‘continued claims’—came in at 19.3 million in the week ending June 20, according to data published Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The number of Americans on the unemployment rolls is down 5.6 million from its 24.9 million peak on May 9. This speaks to how much the economy and employment have recovered since states eased lockdowns in May and June.

Americans on state unemployment rolls are currently receiving an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits from the federal government on top of their state benefits. However, that extra $600 per week—or $2,400 per month—from the CARES Act expires at the end of July unless extended by the federal government.

The main reason Senate Republicans are opposed to extending the extra $600 per week past July is they’re worried that the generosity of the benefit is a disincentive to returning to work. Around 7 in 10 jobless Americans saw a pay increase by going on unemployment insurance.

Yet the fact that 5.6 million Americans have returned to work and fallen off the unemployment rolls before the benefit expires, does challenge that argument.

few economists have told Fortune this week they think the expiration of the extra $600 benefit could derail the economic recovery. Taking away $600 per week from unemployed Americans could cause them to spend less, and decrease overall consumer spending—which accounts for 2/3 of GDP.

And on Thursday we learned another 1.4 million initial unemployment claims were filed in the week ending June 27. That marks 14 straight weeks with claims topping one million. However, these recent jobless Americans will only have a few weeks of the extra $600 federal benefit before it expires.

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