Jobless claims: Another 2.438 million Americans file for unemployment benefits

Darnell Taylor
May 22, 2020

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totalled a seasonally adjusted 2.438 million for the week ended May 16, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

That program is aimed at workers like contractors and self-employed people who would not normally qualify for traditional benefits - indicating the weekly job losses may be closer to 4.7 million. The increase came as the nation as a whole saw the number of initial jobless claims fall 9.2%, to 2.4 million, according to the Labor Department.

Yet the weekly totals remain well above any seen in a single week during the global financial crisis 12 years ago, and more comparable to the Great Depression, as the pandemic forced businesses nationwide to shut down and lay off workers.

Claims have been gradually declining since hitting a record 6.867 million in the week ended March 28.

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"A couple of large states, Florida and NY, still had increases in their weekly claims, but the majority of states are seeing new claims fall by 20 percent per week", UBS said in a note dated May 15, seen by Yahoo Finance.

One potential silver lining in the figures: the majority of states reported a decline in continuing claims, a sign that reopenings are bringing people back to work in many parts of the country.

Jobless claims have averaged just above 3 million over the past four weeks. In the USA, there were 1.55 million cases and 93,400 deaths. "This number of new claims alone is about equal to the population of the city of Houston, Texas". Backlogs have led to delays for millions of Americans across the country in receiving payments, as states scramble to keep up with the unprecedented number of claims. Some economists are looking to the raw numbers for a more accurate read on benefit filings amid challenges with the seasonal adjustment process. The fix was reflected in Thursday's report.

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