Weekly Jobless Claims Fall to 2.1 Million

ROCKTON, ILLINOIS - MARCH 24: A normally busy Main Street is deserted as the small businesses that line the business district remain closed after the governor instituted a shelter-in-place order in an attempt to curtail the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 24, 2020 in Rockton, Illinois. Rockton is …
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

New claims for unemployment benefits fell to 2.123 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 ten weeks ago to nearly 40 million.

Economists had been expecting around 2.1 million for weekly claims. The prior week was revised up by 8,000 to 2,438,000.

Claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 27. Each subsequent week has seen claims decline.

Continuing claims, those made after an initial application, fell for the week ended May 16 to just over 21 million, down from nearly 25 million. Those are reported with a one-week lag. The decline suggests that some who lost their jobs have been rehired or found new work.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending May 16 were in California, Washington, and New York. The largest decrease in claims was in Georgia, New Jersey, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania.

The federal government has been chipping 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. That figure is likely to rise when May’s data is reported next week.

In addition to claims for regular unemployment benefits, the government now offers Pandeemic Unemployment Assistance to business owners, self-employed, gig-workers, and independent contractors who would not ordinarily qualify for unemployment benefits. The government said that an additional  7,793,066 workers received these benefits in the week ended May 9. The total number of workers receiving any form of jobless benefits, including federal workers and newly discharged members of the military, was 30.957 million for the week ended May 9.

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