40 Million and Counting Have Filed for Unemployment Benefits

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It's still really bad, but it's slowly getting better.

Applications for unemployment insurance eased up last week for the eighth straight week as the pace of corporate layoffs related to the pandemic-induced economic shutdown continued to drop, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

Some 2.1 million Americans filed jobless claims for the week ended May 23, down slightly from 2.4 million claims for the week earlier. Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting 2 million claims up to last Saturday.

The number of unemployed Americans since the coronavirus pandemic washed onto U.S. shores in mid-March now stands above 40 million, a number never before seen in history, including during the Great Depression. 

However, the fact that new claims are beginning to taper off is a sign that the worst may be over in terms of mass-layoffs and unemployment related to the global coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic shutdown both in the U.S. and globally.

That's not to say it's all uphill from here. Continuing claims, a number that tallies not just people filing for unemployment benefits but staying on them, came in at 21.052 million for the week ended May 16, down from a record 25.073 million. 

The continuing claims numbers are reported with a one-week lag, but are considered a better gauge of the labor market.

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