Unemployment claims rise as cutoff of extra $600 benefit nears

Motorists take part in a caravan protest in front of Senator John Kennedy's office at the Hale Boggs Federal Building asking for the extension of the $600 in unemployment benefits to people out of work because of the coronavirus in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. (Max Becherer/The Advocate via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation got another dose of bad economic news Thursday as the number of laid-off workers seeking jobless benefits rose for the first time since late March, intensifying concerns the resurgent coronavirus is stalling or even reversing the economic recovery.

And an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits, provided by the federal government on top of whatever assistance states provide, is set to expire July 31, though this is the last week recipients will get the extra funds. It is the last major source of economic help from the $2 trillion relief package that Congress approved in March. A small business lending program and one-time $1,200 payment have largely run their course.

With the count of U.S. infections passing 4 million and the aid ending, nearly 30 million unemployed people could