New claims for unemployment benefits fell to 2.438 million last week, data from the Department of Labor showed Thursday.
That brings new unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, since the coronavirus pandemic began to claim jobs nine weeks ago to around 38.6 million.
Economists had been expecting around 2.4 million for weekly claims. The prior week was initially reported at just below 3 million and was revised down to 2.69 down.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending May 9 were in Florida’s 48,222 and Georgia’s 14,420. The largest decrease in claims was in California, where claims dropped by 103,590. This was followed by Texas’ 102,382, Oklahoma’s 54,806, North Carolina’s 28,602, and Missouri’s 21,382.
Claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 28. Each subsequent week has seen claims decline.
Continuing claims, those made after an initial application, rose for the week ended May 9 to just over 25 million, a new record high. Those are reported with a one-week lag. The week prior was 22.548. The jump is an indication that most of those who lost jobs in recent weeks have remained out of work.
The federal government has been shipping in an extra $600 a week to state unemployment benefits, making the program much more generous. Many workers can now earn more on unemployment than they did when they had a job. These super-sized benefits, however, are set to run out in July.
The government said the U.S. unemployment rate soared to 14.7 percent in April, the highest since the Great Depression.
The new claims numbers may be undercounting the toll the coronavirus and lockdowns have exacted on the U.S. labor market. Many states have ha problems processing the large amount of claims.