Stimulus Check Update: Could Rising Jobless Claims Make the Case for a Fourth Payment?

by Maurie Backman | Published on Sept. 27, 2021

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A diverse group of individuals awaiting job interviews.

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It may be premature to completely write off the idea of a fourth stimulus round.

It's been months since lawmakers approved a round of stimulus checks, and while monthly Child Tax Credit payments have been hitting Americans' bank accounts since July, not everyone is entitled to those payments. At this point, boosted unemployment benefits have run out, so the jobless are limited to the benefits paid by their states alone. And given recent data on the unemployment front, that puts a lot of people in a pretty precarious situation.

Weekly jobless claims rise again

For the week ending Sept. 18, there were 351,000 new jobless claims filed. That's a jump from the 335,000 claims filed the week before, and it's also a much higher number than the 320,000 new claims economists were anticipating. In fact, that week's total was the largest number of new claims filed since the week of Aug. 21.

Not only did the number of new jobless claims increase, but the number of continuing unemployment claims rose by 181,000. At this point, more than 2.84 million people are receiving jobless benefits.

Given the way the Delta variant is wreaking havoc on many parts of the country, this news isn't all that surprising. In fact, economists feared earlier this summer that rising case numbers would potentially lead business owners to start spending more conservatively and potentially eliminate jobs. And given recent unemployment data, that prediction seems to be coming true.

But what does all of this mean as far as a fourth stimulus check is concerned? On the one hand, the economic situation seems to have declined in recent weeks. On the other hand, August's jobs reports pointed to the lowest national unemployment rate we've seen since the start of the pandemic. So the question really boils down to whether things will get bad enough to warrant another stimulus round.

Right now, we're probably not there. A few weeks of rising jobless claims is unlikely to make the case for a fourth round of direct payments, and even if the national unemployment rate rises slightly in September compared to August, that alone may not fuel a follow-up stimulus round.

However, if the economic situation continues to decline, then a fourth stimulus check could end up being back on the table. That's not a situation the public should hope for. But it's also not a scenario we can write off.

There's still help available

In the meantime, some Americans will be getting a stimulus of sorts in the form of monthly Child Tax Credit payments. Those installments are scheduled to keep coming in through December.

While the boosted Child Tax Credit is only supposed to apply to the current year, lawmakers are fighting to make the enhanced version a permanent part of the tax code and retain the current setup, where parents receive monthly installment payments rather than a single lump sum. The boosted credit has already done a good job of helping families make ends meet and lifting children out of poverty, so even if we don't see another stimulus check anytime soon, that doesn't mean aid isn't going out to the people who need it.

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