Economy

Jobless claims total 2.4 million, still elevated levels but a declining pace from previous weeks

Key Points
  • First-time filings for unemployment insurance totaled 2.44 million last week, about in line with economist estimates.
  • That brings the total filings during the coronavirus pandemic to 38.6 million.
  • However, the total has fallen for seven straight weeks from its record peak.
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Weekly jobless claims rose 2.44 million for week ending May 16

First-time filings for unemployment insurance totaled 2.44 million last week as the tail effects of the coronavirus shutdown continued to impact the U.S. jobs market.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for 2.4 million claims.

The seasonally adjusted total, while still well above anything the nation had seen in pre-coronavirus America, represents the seventh straight week of a declining pace following the record peak of 6.9 million in late March.

In addition, a review from last week brought the number down substantially, from 2.98 million to 2.69 million. In the nine weeks since the coronavirus-induced lockdown has closed large parts of the U.S. economy, some 38.6 million workers have filed claims.

The level of continuing claims painted a clearer picture of how unemployment is persisting even as states are increasingly taking steps to bring their economies back on line. The total for the week ending May 9 was 25.07 million, an increase of 2.52 million from the previous week.

The four-week moving average also increased sharply, jumping by 2.3 million to just above 22 million.

Markets reacted little to the news, with Wall Street indicating a modestly lower open for stocks.

"Net, net, the states may be opening back up, but the labor market is still closed for millions across America and the loss of the income and spending of those without jobs will be a considerable headwind for this economic recovery," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank.

At the state level, the biggest drop came in Georgia, which saw a decline of 66,224 from a week earlier, according to data not adjusted for seasonal factors. The biggest gain was in California, which saw an increase of 33,448.

Though the total national numbers are on the decline, the unemployment numbers remain staggering and well beyond anything the U.S. has seen before. Along with the 25 million unemployed as indicated by the continuing claims, there are another 2.23 million claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and 167,727 under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment program.

The programs provide funding for states to pay up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits for workers who either aren't eligible for standard benefits or have exhausted their regular compensation.