Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) reported that 2.2 million workers filed regular first-time unemployment claims (not seasonally adjusted) for the week ending May 16 and another 2.2 million filed for benefits under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for gig workers and others. In total, 4.4 million people filed new unemployment claims. (The seasonally adjusted regular UI claims number was 2.4 million.)

“It’s horrific that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he does not feel the ‘urgency’ of providing relief to families when tens of millions of workers have filed for unemployment benefits in the past two months, including more than one-third of the workforce in his home state of Kentucky. This is the definition of out of touch—and it’s cruel.

“Economists and other policy experts agree that staying home to stop the spread of the virus is the most important priority not only for public health but the economy. This means Congress needs to provide relief to families for as long as the pandemic lasts. Congress also must do the same for small businesses—the heart and soul of our economy—because helping them now will ensure that we can create jobs later. We are all in this together.

“The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program extended benefits to workers previously not eligible, including self-employed, gig workers and others. Congress made the right move by expanding eligibility for these workers and the millions who have filed for benefits under this program are proof."

Yesterday, ahead of the DOL’s report on first-time unemployment claims, JEC Democrats released a brief that explains why including those who file for PUA benefits is necessary to understand how many Americans in total are filing for unemployment. In addition, the brief explains why using the actual number of unemployment claims filed each week—as opposed to the seasonally adjusted number—makes the most sense during a period of massive layoffs.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Previously, Beyer served as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.