745,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week

The Labor Department reported 745,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, an increase of 9,000 from the previous week. The latest numbers come as President Biden and Senate Democrats agreed to limit which Americans receive a $1,400 stimulus check. CBS News' Skyler Henry reports on the latest from the White House, and Lori Bettinger, co-president of BancAlliance and a former director of the Troubled Asset Relief Program during the Obama administration, joined CBSN to discuss the unemployment numbers.

Video Transcript

TANYA RIVERO: The Senate is in session today as they work to pass much-needed COVID relief. The Senate is expected to hold its first procedural vote on the bill today. President Biden's American Rescue Plan includes $1,400 stimulus checks and $400-a-week unemployment benefits. It also includes funding for reopening schools, vaccine distributions, state and local governments, and more. This comes as the Labor Department is reporting 745,000 Americans filed unemployment last week. That is 9,000 more claims than the previous week. CBS News's Skyler Henry reports from the White House.

SKYLER HENRY: The latest unemployment numbers from the federal government show jobless claims inched up last week. This as President Biden and Senate Democrats agreed to limit which Americans receive a $1,400 stimulus check. Full checks will now go to individuals making $75,000 or less a year. Smaller checks will go to people making up to $80,000. Married couples who make up to $150,000 will get $2,800 for a couple, $1,400 for each child. Smaller checks are capped at couples making a combined $160,000. About 9 million households that got stimulus checks last year will not get checks this time around. But about 150 million households will get a bigger check than last time.

The Senate may hold its first procedural vote on the bill today. Republicans argue it's too much money, and they vow to drag out the vote as long as they possibly can. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson says he will request a full reading of the bill, which could take 10 hours.

At the White House, President Biden is slamming decisions made by several governors to roll back or completely eliminate COVID restrictions in their states, including Texas, Mississippi, and Iowa. Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning of a possible resurgence.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Over the last seven days or so, we've reached a bit of a plateau where the deflection of the curve isn't going straight down the way it was. That's a bad sign.

SKYLER HENRY: California has announced it will relax restrictions only after vaccinating more people who live in communities hardest hit by coronavirus. The state is setting aside 40% of vaccines for them. Yesterday, farm workers in the San Francisco area were able to get vaccinated at a mobile clinic.

- I'm so happy. I can stay with my family now.

SKYLER HENRY: Once 2 million vaccine doses are given out in 400 zip codes, the state will make it easier for counties to start reopening.

Skyler Henry, CBS News, the White House.

TANYA RIVERO: For more on those unemployment numbers, I want to bring in Lori Bettinger. She is co-president of BancAlliance. She's also a former director of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, also known as TARP, during the Obama administration. Lori, welcome. Great to see you again.

So jobless claims remain elevated and higher than pre-pandemic levels. But they have eased somewhat since the start of the year, when they peaked at more than 900,000. So how do you interpret these numbers? Do you think we are slowly on the road to recovery, or are we really floundering?

LORI BETTINGER: Thanks again for having me. I have to say, it's nice to see some stabilization, but, you know, on the other hand, it's hard to say that you see sort of a light at the end of the tunnel that's absolutely blinding. You know, these numbers are still very elevated. And when you add in these jobless claims and look at the self-employed, you're still over a million jobless claims last week. And we're still at the point where, throughout the pandemic, we're probably at about 10 million fewer jobs than we had before.

And when you go beyond the numbers and you look at the impact on people and families and particularly different segments, different communities, it's hard to say that we've recovered yet or that we're on a very quick path to recovery. I think that we're seeing some of the maybe more middle-income communities, you know, sort of highly educated residents, really starting to show signs of recovery, or perhaps they weren't even that impacted in the first place, whereas you see some communities, perhaps with more minorities that came into this at a disadvantage, really still suffering. And then, of course, when you break the numbers down further and look at some of the gender differences, you still see that women in particular have been very adversely impacted.

TANYA RIVERO: Oh, I'm glad you brought that up because I want to dive a little deeper into that. The job market has been particularly tough on women. As of January, slightly more than half of the 10 million jobs lost during COVID-19 were held by women. So break down for us, if you will, some of the obstacles that women are facing now to getting back into the workforce, to be able to get out there and really fight for some of these jobs as they start to reemerge.

LORI BETTINGER: Of course. And, you know, you mentioned those numbers, and then we even had months like December, which wasn't that long ago, where women actually lost more than 100% of the net job losses. I think the job losses were 150,000. Women had lost like 170,000. And there was some gains made actually by male employees. So the numbers, as you say, are just mind-boggling.

I think-- you know, there's been a lot of talk about this concept of a second shift, where a lot of women work outside the house and have that job and then come home and often bear more of the child care and housework responsibilities. And what has made that possible, the support that's been in place, has been really child care, daycare, schools. And without those supports, that system, which some might argue was fragile in many cases anyways, really collapses.

So without, you know, I think schools being fully open, without-- I know that there's been many articles written about the number of child care centers have really shrunk throughout the pandemic-- it's going to be, I think, very hard to see women come back to the same participation level as beforehand. And there's a lot of studies right now saying that one in four women have considered either leaving the workforce during the pandemic or reducing their responsibilities. And that is an extraordinary number to me.

TANYA RIVERO: It is an extraordinary number. And, of course, the Biden administration is hoping that this new stimulus relief package will address some of those issues and stabilize the economy to help everyday Americans. But, as you're probably aware, lawmakers are tightening the requirements of who receives stimulus checks and benefits. Do you believe that a little bit less money going out to some of the people on the higher end of the grouping that was eligible for these checks, will that help or hurt the job market and economy?

LORI BETTINGER: You know, I'm hoping that they're taking sort of a narrow enough approach that they're really reducing the direct stimulus for the people that need it less. And, you know, I think you're always going to have to have compromises, and if you can have a compromise that gets enough legislators comfortable with this and still get the bulk of the stimulus out, I think that's generally a good thing.

I mean, when you look at some of the aspects of the stimulus that really directly address some of these issues we've been talking about, whether it's these refundable child tax credits or all of this money going towards schools to allow them to reopen safely, I think that's a very direct impact, for example, on the participation of women in the workforce, and, you know, extending unemployment benefits. The thing that I worry about sometimes is, some of these benefits might only last for a year or so. And to the extent we're seeing trends that are really forcing women out of the workplace perhaps for years, not just a year, this might just be a Band-Aid on a problem that's going to need a more robust policy solution.

TANYA RIVERO: Absolutely. I mean, some are saying that this pandemic is just shining a light on problems-- infrastructure problems that were already there, the lack of support that many women had both working and in the home. Of course, this has been exacerbated by the pandemic, but that it won't necessarily go away once we're-- quote, unquote-- back to normal.

LORI BETTINGER: Yeah, I completely agree. And we can wish that this weren't the case. But I think that many people would agree that if you're on a Zoom call and you have a father on a call and a kid runs in, it's often considered cute and charming. And, sometimes, if the same situation-- if you have a mother on a call, and, all of a sudden, a kid runs in, it can be perceived as unprofessional. And I think so much of how corporate America reacts is-- you know, when you see that kid run into a mother's call, do you think, ugh, unprofessional, or do you think, wow, that's someone who can multitask, handle a lot, is on a Zoom while trying to set up the next Zoom class? How do we perceive that as a culture? And I think that's going to be a big question going forward.

TANYA RIVERO: Absolutely. Well, Lori Bettinger, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate your insight.

LORI BETTINGER: Thank you for having me.