BOSTON — The number of unemployment claims filed by Massachusetts workers ticked up slightly last week, as hundreds of thousands brace for a loss of federal benefits with a new relief plan tied up in Congress.
At least 19,179 unemployment claims were filed for the week that ended July 25 — increase of 1,025 from the prior week, according to the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Another 14,850 claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers workers ineligible for regular unemployment benefits. That’s an increase of nearly 2,500 claims from the previous week.
The uptick follows several weeks of declining claims as the state reopens its economy and allows some businesses to reopen with health and safety restrictions.
Massachusetts' 17.5% unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the nation, according to federal data. More than 1 million jobless workers are collecting regular state unemployment benefits and federally backed pandemic assistance intended to help those who cannot get traditional benefits.
Nationally, about 1.4 million new claims were filed last week, according to the U.S. Labor Department's Thursday jobs report, as the economy stalled amid surges of the coronavirus in dozens of states. More than 54 million Americans have sought jobless benefits since the outbreak began five months ago.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts workers will see their unemployment benefits shrink after this week when a federal subsidy expires.
The CARES Act — a $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress in response to the coronavirus outbreak — put an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits into the pockets of workers left jobless by business shutdowns. But the subsidy, touted as a lifeline for millions of unemployed Americans, expired Friday.
In Congress, Democrats have proposed extending the benefits. But the Trump administration and congressional Republicans argue the sweetened benefits are giving some people incentive not to return to their jobs.
Senate Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion package that would reduce the $600 unemployment supplement, possibly to $200 a week.
House Democrats approved a $3 trillion bill in May that would extend the $600 benefit.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com.