Stimulus Check Update: Weekly Jobless Claims Drop, Hurting Chances of Fourth Round

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An improvement in jobless claims could make a fourth stimulus check even less likely this year.

Earlier this year, when the American Rescue Plan was signed into law, it was clear that the U.S. economy was still in pretty lousy shape. At the time, not only was the jobless rate higher than it is today, but because COVID-19 vaccines weren't widely available, it was more difficult for those on unemployment to go out and find work. As such, it was easy to make the case for sending stimulus checks into Americans' bank accounts.

Things have improved since then, though. Over the summer, new jobless claims declined and the national unemployment rate fell as well. In fact, this past week, the number of new jobless claims came to just 326,000. That represents a drop of 38,000 from the previous week. And it also makes a fourth stimulus check this year a lot less likely.

Things aren't bad enough for a fourth check

Last week's 326,000 new jobless claims is not actually a pandemic-era low. That milestone was reached over the summer. But still, it's a positive development, especially since new claims had ticked upward in the weeks before.

Not only were fewer new jobless claims filed last week, but continuing claims, which run a week behind, fell by 97,000. They're now sitting at 2.71 million which, to be clear, is still a large number, but lower than where continuing claims sat earlier on in the year.

Now one thing it's worth noting is that many jobless workers were effectively kicked off of unemployment in early September when a few key federal programs ran out. Self-employed workers, for example, who are normally not eligible for unemployment but were able to receive it due to temporary provisions instituted during the pandemic, lost their benefits at that time.

But still, the takeaway here is that the economy is in better shape than it was when the last stimulus round was approved. And unless things take a notable turn for the worse, which is something we shouldn't hope for, we can assume that Americans won't be in line for a fourth stimulus check this year.

That said, parents are still eligible for extra money thanks to the expanded Child Tax Credit. This year, half of the credit is being paid in monthly installments, the next of which is due in mid-October. Those payments have already done a great job of helping families shore up their finances, and they've also lifted many children out of poverty.

An alternative to a fourth check

It's too soon to say whether there will be a fourth stimulus check at some point in the future. But it's unlikely to happen within the next few months.

Those in need of extra money may therefore want to try making their own stimulus check, so to speak, by picking up extra work on top of their main jobs. Right now, many industries are struggling to hire, and we can expect retailers in particular to need more hands on deck as the holiday season approaches. And so those who were hoping for a fourth stimulus check may have ample opportunity to boost their cash reserves in the absence of a government payday.

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