Unemployment claims top 26 million 5 weeks into pandemic

Apr 24 , 2020

Unemployment claims top 26 million 5 weeks into pandemic

Americans filed 4.4 million jobless claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, pushing the five-week total of coronavirus-driven job losses to more than 26 million.

The new report, which covers the week ending April 18, lent plausibility to economists' prediction that the unemployment rate will by summer be within range of the 25 percent peak recorded in 1933 during the Great Depression.

"All else equal, job losses of this magnitude would translate into an unemployment rate of 18.3 [percent]," said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

As of April 11, roughly 71 percent of those who have filed have received benefits, according to Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the progressive Century Foundation.

In 2018, the last year for which data was available, two-thirds of unemployment insurance applications were approved.

"With the nation unable to mount the public health response needed to re-open businesses, unemployment benefits are carrying the weight and serving as the last line of defense for millions of struggling families," Stettner said in a statement.

Claims by self-employed and gig workers made eligible last month for jobless benefits under the new temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program are starting to show up in the weekly count, as some states are finally getting procedures in place to process the new claims. So far, only 10 states have updated their systems to pay out benefits to those workers, the Labor Department said Thursday. Gig workers in other states are being told to wait.

"Today’s unemployment report shows continued, elevated unemployment claims caused by the coronavirus pandemic," Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in a statement. "The Department of Labor is continuing to provide guidance and support to the states as they implement the enhanced unemployment benefits under the CARES Act."

Scalia also said that 44 states are now paying the temporary $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit provided under the massive coronavirus relief package signed into law last month.

The greatest number of new unemployment claims was in California, which processed an estimated 533,568 claims last week. Florida followed with 505,137 new claims.

"We anticipate a further decline in claims next week, but the rate of fall of Google searches for 'file for unemployment' has slowed, suggesting it will take several more weeks before claims drop below one million," wrote Ian Shepherdson chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. "Note that in the single worst week after the crash of 2008, claims rose 665K."


Source: Politico