According to this Thursday’s Labor Department data, self-employed workers that applied for benefits last week were about half the amount of the week before. Suggesting that employment rates are slowly increasing, however, this likely did not happen. 

Claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is a federal program paying benefits to self-employed workers, fell to around 160,000 last week. The week before however, as much as 320,000 workers applied for the benefits. 

The drop in claims most likely occurred due to the recent $900 billion Covid relief package, economists and unemployment experts claim. A policy advisor for Employ America, Elizabeth Pancotti says that the initial 50% drop should not be taken at face value. The PUA program was extended till mid-March, due to the relief law despite being set to originally expire after Christmas. The legislation was signed by President Donald Trump, however, the signature most likely didn’t occur in time as many workers had to suffer a short lapse in benefits.

Experts suggest that the program was made unavailable temporarily, for many workers as a result of this. They also add that most workers likely did not apply for benefits as it was unclear as to how many extra weeks of benefits they would get if they did.

AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the American employment website Indeed says that there were a ton of uncertainty on whether or not PUA was to be extended, which most likely impacted claimant behavior. Experts also suggest that the states will most likely amend the data in the following week’s tally, due to the data being a blip. This will most likely increase count.