Weekly jobless claims rose by another 2.44 million, the government reported on Thursday, in yet another sign of how detrimental an impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the U.S. economy and its workforce.
The Labor Department said 2.438 million Americans filed jobless claims for the week ended May 16, even as parts of the U.S. economy slowly began to reopen after more than two months of being shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Economists had been expecting 2.375 million claims up to last Saturday, down from the previous week’s revised tally of 2.687 million.
Continuing claims, which is the number of people not just filing but staying on unemployment benefits, rose to a record 25 million for the week ended May 9.
Last week’s filings bring the total number of people who have filed claims for unemployment benefits to about 39 million since March 21.
Weekly claims have been gradually declining since hitting a record 6.867 million in the week ended March 28, though economists and market-watchers are now looking more closely at continuing claims.
The continuing claims numbers are reported with a one-week lag but are considered a better gauge of the labor market.
The numbers back up just how steep and painful the economic fallout from the pandemic has been. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reinforced that view last week, noting the pace and scope of the current downturn is “without precedent" and that recovery could take longer than expected.
Indeed, while the economy continues to slowly reopen after more than two months of being almost completely shuttered, a significant lack of demand, as well as companies' inability to reopen economically, has prevented millions from re-gaining employment.
Even then, The figures do not include hundreds of thousands of self-employed workers receiving benefits for the first time through a coronavirus-related government program that is part of the nearly $3 trillion in aid put in play by Congress.
During the week ending May 2, 27 states reported 6.12 million individuals claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, and 15 states reporting 162,727 individuals claiming Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits.
The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending May 2 were in Nevada (23.5), Michigan (22.6), Washington (22.1), Rhode Island (19.9), New York (19.6), Connecticut (19.3), Puerto Rico (19.2), Mississippi (18.8), Vermont (18.8), and Georgia (18.5).