unemployment

When the coronavirus pandemic hit this spring, government relief payments provided a life raft to millions of people who had been thrown out of work.

That life raft, however, is now losing air, threatening to leave the unemployed in a perilous situation just as Washington leaders struggle to clinch a new package of aid ahead of the November election.

Household income in the United States rose sharply last year while poverty declined — fruits of a record-long period of economic growth that ended abruptly when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

An annual report from the Census Bureau shows median household income jumped 6.8% in 2019, to $68,700. That's the highest since the government started keeping track in 1967.

The poverty rate declined to 10.5% — the lowest since records began in 1959.

Updated at 4:37 p.m. ET

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the pace of jobs growth is rising faster than many people expected, but it may take years before the economy has fully recovered.

Jess Clark / WFPL

The federal government has approved Gov. Andy Beshear’s application for a $400 per week supplement to unemployment benefits.

The supplement was created by President Donald Trump earlier this month after the previous $600 per week unemployment benefit expired at the end of July.

Ryland Barton / Kentucky Public Radio

Kentucky’s top budget official says the state’s financial future is uncertain as federal programs like the $600 supplement to unemployment benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program expire during the pandemic.

Courtesy Bytemarks via Creative Commons

By late April, Kentucky’s unemployment insurance office was handling more than a hundred thousand claims a week, and Gov. Andy Beshear was urging anyone who was out of work to apply during his daily briefings.

First-time claims for state unemployment benefits dropped below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic hit the economy in March. Claims under a special pandemic program for gig workers and others who are typically not eligible for unemployment also fell.

The drop may signal an improvement in the job market. Jobless benefits have also become less valuable, since a $600 per week federal supplement expired at the end of July.

Kentucky Legislature

The former executive director of the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance told legislators Thursday the agency’s chaotic rush to deliver benefits in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic led to months-long delays — and may have violated federal unemployment regulations. 

On the face of it, $600 is a pretty unremarkable number.

The federal government has been paying this additional amount each week to every person who qualifies for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

Courtesy Bytemarks via Creative Commons

  Like thousands of other Kentuckians over the last few months, Travis Powell just wanted a simple answer from the state Office of Unemployment Insurance.

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