Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 August 2020

Three million more join jobless ranks in the US

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits increased by 33 million since March 21

Closed stores in Los Angeles, California, during a coronavirus lockdown period. A Reuters survey of economists forecast that US nonfarm payrolls are set to fall by a record 22 million in April, way higher than the 800,000 laid off at the peak of the 2007-2009 recession. AFP
Closed stores in Los Angeles, California, during a coronavirus lockdown period. A Reuters survey of economists forecast that US nonfarm payrolls are set to fall by a record 22 million in April, way higher than the 800,000 laid off at the peak of the 2007-2009 recession. AFP

Millions more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, suggesting layoffs broadened from consumer-facing industries to other segments of the economy and could remain elevated even as many parts of the country start to reopen.

The Labour Department's weekly jobless claims report on Thursday showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits totalled a seasonally adjusted 3.17 million for the week ended May 2, down from a revised 3.84 million in the week before.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast three million claims in the past week compared to the previously reported 3.84 million in the week ending April 25.

The data supported economists' views of a protracted recovery of the economy, which is reeling from nationwide lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The economy shrank in the first quarter at the steepest pace since the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2009.

The weekly claims report came after news on Wednesday that private payrolls fell by a record 20.2 million in April, which set up the overall labour market for historic job losses.

It marked the fifth straight weekly decrease in applications since hitting a record 6.86 million in the week ending March 28.

However, the latest numbers lifted to about 33 million the number of people who have filed claims for unemployment benefits since March 21.

"The pace of new claims for unemployment is slowing, but remains at levels unimaginable just a few months ago," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economics in Holland, Pennsylvania.

"Even with the economy slowly starting to reopen, the number of unemployed should continue to rise sharply as governments, as well as businesses that have tried but not succeeded at holding the line, are now laying off workers," he said.

Thursday's weekly claims data will have no impact on the Labour Department's comprehensive employment report for April, which is scheduled to be released on Friday, as it falls outside the period during which the government surveyed establishments and households for its monthly report.

According to a Reuters survey of economists, non-farm payrolls are forecast to have declined by a historic 22 million in April, which would blow away the record 800,000 decline seen during the recession from 2007 to 2009.

Employment dropped by 701,000 jobs in March, ending a record streak of gains dating back to September 2010.

The US unemployment rate is set to jump to 16 per cent in April, which would shatter the post-Second World War record of 10.8 per cent touched in November 1982.

In March the jobless rate shot up 0.9 percentage points, the largest monthly change since January 1975, to 4.4 per cent.

April could, however, mark the trough in job losses as more small businesses access their portion of an almost $3 trillion (Dh11tn) fiscal package, which made provisions for them to secure loans that could be partially forgiven if they were used for employee salaries.

At least 30 states are partially reopening, which could see some of the unemployed returning to work.

Updated: May 9, 2020 01:04 AM

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