Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania are seeing surges in claims for unemployment benefits as workers and state health officials in those places struggle to strike a balance between economic well-being and safety from the coronavirus.
Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia have seen the most concentrated spikes in jobless claims since mid-March, when employers began to lay off droves of workers thanks to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Those states have seen 259, 242, 239, 238, 231, 224 and 216 jobless claims per 1,000 workers, respectively, over the last five weeks. Those figures are well above the national average of 148 claims per 1,000 workers over the last five weeks.
Those were the states that saw the most intense surges in claims when controlling for differences in the size of each state's labor force. The data is for jobless filings through the end of last week.
Coronavirus-induced business closures imposed by state governments in recent weeks have fueled the number of Americans applying for state unemployment benefits. Last week, new jobless claims totaled 4.427 million, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
Combined with the four prior jobless claims reports, the number of Americans who have filed for unemployment over the previous five weeks is 26.45 million. That number exceeds the 22.442 million jobs added to the U.S. economy since November 2009, when employers began to add positions back to the economy after the Great Recession.
And though last week's 4.4 million claims represented a slight slowing from the prior week's data, economists warn that it will likely take a while for the official unemployment level to peak.
"In the last five weeks, more than 24 million workers applied for unemployment insurance benefits. ... That means more than one in seven workers applied for [unemployment insurance]," wrote Heidi Shierholz, former Labor Department chief economist under President Obama and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute.
"All else equal, job losses of this magnitude would translate into an unemployment rate of 18.3%," she added. "However, the official unemployment rate, when it is released, will likely not reflect all coronavirus-related layoffs. This is due to the fact that jobless workers are only counted as unemployed if they are actively seeking work."
Looking at absolute unemployment claims unadjusted for state population, California came out highest with more than 3.3 million initial jobless claims filed over the last five weeks.
Pennsylvania took the No. 2 spot with 1.5 million claims while New York saw 1.4 million. Texas, Michigan, Florida and Georgia have seen claims of 1.3 million, 1.2 million, 1.2 million and 1.1 million, respectively, over the last five weeks.
"We are facing an unforeseen enemy and today's report continues to show that these are challenging times for many Americans who want to get back to work," Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, told CNBC.
"Because of President Trump's leadership and the American people's commitment to slow the spread, we are on a data-driven, responsible path to opening up America again," he added. "As we begin the phased approach, the Administration continues to move quickly to provide the benefits under the CARES Act that workers, families, and small businesses across the country need."
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