Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 May 2020

More than 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment in past week

About 38.6 million initial unemployment insurance claims have been filed since efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic rapidly shut down US economy in mid-March

People wait in line for help with unemployment benefits in Las Vegas. The number of Americans filing for unemployment has soared to nearly 39 million in nine weeks. AP
People wait in line for help with unemployment benefits in Las Vegas. The number of Americans filing for unemployment has soared to nearly 39 million in nine weeks. AP

More than 2 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, indicating major job losses are continuing two months after the coronavirus pandemic started shuttering businesses.

Initial jobless claims for regular state programs totaled 2.44 million in the week ended May 16, Labour Department figures showed Thursday. The prior week’s figure was revised down by 294,000 to 2.69 million after a clerical error by Connecticut labor officials inflated the overall nationwide figure.

The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 2.4 million claims in the latest week.

Since efforts to the contain Covid-19 pandemic rapidly shut down the US economy in mid-March, about 38.6 million initial unemployment insurance claims have been filed. That two-month total is roughly equivalent to all of the initial claims filed during the Great Recession.

Continuing claims -- the total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits -- increased to a record 25.1 million in the week ended May 9. That sent the insured unemployment rate, or the number of people currently receiving unemployment insurance as a share of the total eligible labor market, to 17.2 per cent for that period.

Those series are reported with a one-week lag. Economists are monitoring continuing claims to gauge the breadth of the recovery in the labor market as states begin to reopen their economies.

The collapse in the labor market has extended to the self-employed, the gig workers, the men and women driving for Uber and Lyft, who have also been out of work as a result of the crisis. Initial claims under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program -- which expands unemployment benefits to such individuals not typically eligible -- totaled 2.23 million last week.

Continuing claims under the PUA program totaled 6.12 million as of May 2.

Updated: May 22, 2020 05:25 AM

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