Weekly Unemployment Claims Down Again, But Still In The Millions

(FamilyRetirementClub.com)- First-time claims for unemployment continue to slow, but the total number of new weekly claims are still in the millions.

The U.S. Department of Labor released new statistics for the week that ended May 29, which showed that another 1.9 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week.

That brings the total number of jobless claims to 42.6 million since the coronavirus pandemic began in mid-March. That’s a truly staggering number when you consider it represents more than one quarter of the total U.S. labor force.

The weekly first-time unemployment claims peaked in the last week of March, with 6.9 million claims that week. Since that time, though, claims have fallen each week, marking 10 consecutive weeks of this doing so.

While that is good news, new claims approaching 2 million still isn’t a great thing. In fact, before the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Labor had never had a single week where jobless claims were more than 1 million.

Continuing claims actually rose last week, up to 21.5 million. This number counts all the people who have filed for jobless benefits for at least two consecutive weeks.

When continuing claims drop, it suggests that people are returning to work, since they no longer need unemployment benefits. That number dropped the week before, but last week’s increase has some economists worried. While the hope was that the country was starting to get back to work, these numbers would initially indicate that it’s going to be a much slower recovery.

As Daniel Zhao, the senior economist at Glassdoor, said:

“Even as states re-open, claims in the millions are an indicator that the economic pain of the COVID-19 crisis is still acute.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to release its monthly jobs report on Friday morning, and the expectations are that the statistics are going to paint a grim picture for the employment market.

Most economics believe the unemployment rate to reach as high as, or above, 20% in May. They also expect the report to show a total of 28.5 million jobs lost over just the last two months. The unemployment rate in the United States hasn’t reached that level since the Great Depression. A monthly unemployment rate of that level has never been recorded since the data began being collected back in 1948.

As Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst at Bankrate, predicted:

“The forthcoming May jobs report will amount to a shocking sequel to the April horror story. It is likely to add further economic insult to the injury already established with the jobless rate. Millions more are expected to fall off of payrolls.”

Even as states begin to re-open, some businesses are struggling with how to do so safely and also by their state’s rules and regulations. Some will need extra financial assistance, and some may never re-open, causing even more problems with the job market long-term. It’s possible that these jobs that were lost won’t be regained for quite some time.