The four-week running average that most analysts prefer because it flattens out the volatility of the weekly numbers, was 377,750. The was an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's revised average of 375,750.
In all programs, including federal emergency extensions, the total number of people claiming benefits for the week ending Sept. 1 was 5,173,597, a decrease of 217,823 from the previous week. There were 6,887,930 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week of 2011.
Most of the time, only about 35 percent of out of work Americans are eligible to receive benefits. That's because they must have been laid off through no fault of their own and must have had to work a minimum amount of time, usually a year, to collect.
But the recession that began in December 2007 greatly increased the eligible category because millions were laid off as the economy soured. At one point, about 70 percent of those laid off received benefits. Normally, that would have meant 26 weeks of state-provided benefits and then nothing, the idea being that few people would be out of work for more than half a year. But the severity of the recession spurred Congress to pass a series of emergency extensions that provided up to an additional 73 weeks of benefits. That was reduced to 40 extra weeks in the worst hit states as part of budget deal in February.
The extensions, however, are set to expire at the end of the year. If Congress does not renew them, an entirely possible situation, newly jobless Americans would only be eligible for 26 weeks no matter how long they remained out of work. For the first time in more than half a century, a few states have reduced the number of weeks they will provide benefits from 26 weeks to as low as 12 weeks depending on how high the state's unemployment rate is.
Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute writes:
Only around a quarter of today’s unemployed workers are receiving regular state UI benefits, the lowest share on record. This means that if emergency extended benefits are not included in Congress’ continuing appropriations legislation, only around a quarter of this country’s nearly 13 million unemployed would receive UI, despite the fact that there are more than three unemployed workers for every job opening.