- US jobless claims for the week that ended Saturday totaled 1.9 million, the Labour Department said Thursday. That slightly exceeded the median economist estimate.
- That brought the 11-week total to nearly 43 million. But Thursday’s report also marked the ninth straight week of declining claims.
- Overall, it means more than one in four American workers has lost a job during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Continuing claims, which represent the aggregate total of people receiving unemployment benefits, totaled 21.5 million for the week that ended May 23.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Nearly 2 million Americans filed for unemployment-insurance benefits last week as the coronavirus pandemic continued to force layoffs nationwide.
The figure raised the 11-week total to 42.6 million, meaning more than one in four American workers has lost a job during the pandemic. It’s also more than the roughly 37 million people who filed unemployment-insurance claims during the year and a half of the Great Recession.
Still, unemployment filings last week fell from more than 2.1 million in the previous week. The number of new filings has now declined for nine straight weeks.
Continuing claims, which represent the aggregate total of people actually receiving unemployment benefits, were 21.5 million for the week that ended May 23, suggesting a slow labour-market recovery, despite signs of economic reopening. Still, it was down from the record of 25 million set two weeks prior.
In addition, there were 623,073 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which expanded benefits to those not previously eligible, over 36 states in the week that ended May 30.
At this point – nearly three months into the crisis – still seeing initial claims of more than 1 million and heralding the data as a sign of improvement “is a real gut check, and head check, of what’s happening right now,” Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed, told Business Insider.
It’s unclear whether jobless claims will ever see a sharp drop-off mirroring how quickly they spiked in mid-March when large parts of the US economy began entering lockdown to control the novel coronavirus.
Now, after all 50 states have relaxed at least some of their restrictions on the way to reopening, the ongoing high number of claims suggests to some that a recovery may not yet be underway.
“Perhaps layoffs are now happening away from the front-line customer facing jobs hammered in March and April, and are reaching into supply chains and services firms,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a Thursday note.
He added that managerial positions may now be in jeopardy as well, if companies are experiencing a drop in demand. As many as 6 million white-collar workers’ jobs may now be on the line in a second wave of COVID-19 layoffs, Bloomberg reported.
In addition, it’s still likely that there are massive backlogs of claims as state systems are overwhelmed by the number of people filing each week. There have also been delays in payments reaching workers. One recent analysis showed that about one-third of unemployment benefits – including the additional $US600 from the CARES Act – that were promised to Americans have not been paid.
On Friday, the US Labour Department is due to release the May jobs report, which will provide further data breaking down the employment situation in the US.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect that the US lost 8 million jobs in May, less than April’s record 20.5 million drop, but that the unemployment rate will have spiked to nearly 20%, the highest since 1948. The estimates hinge on the more than 12 million unemployment claims filed since the April report.
But the report might not be so dire, as initial claims tell only who has been laid off, not who has been hired – half the story. On Wednesday, the ADP employment report showed that US private payrolls fell by only 2.76 million in May, much less than the 9 million expected. This could signal that re-hiring picked up in May as some states began to reopen, and could mean that Friday’s report is better than expected.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.