WASHINGTON – The US economy is reopening gradually but America’s joblessness crisis continues to roar on.
Another 1.5 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Department of Labor reported on Thursday.
Although initial jobless claims have been falling every week since peaking at 6.9 million in the last week of March, millions of people remain reliant on government aid to make ends meet since the pandemic eliminated their jobs.
More than 44 million people have filed for initial unemployment benefits since mid-March, when then US economy shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Stripping out seasonal adjustments, last week’s unemployment claims still stood at 1.5 million, a decrease of nearly 83,000 from the prior week. In normal times, seasonal adjustments are used to smooth out the data set, but during this unprecedented crisis, the adjustments can distort the picture somewhat.
In addition to regular unemployment insurance, nearly 706,000 people in 42 states filed initial claims for the pandemic unemployment assistance program last week.
Congress created the program to temporarily provide benefits to independent contractors, the self-employed, gig workers and certain people affected by the coronavirus. That’s in addition to the more than 2.1 million Americans who filed first-time pandemic program claims over the two weeks ending May 30. None of these applicants are included in the seasonally adjusted data for the regular unemployment program.
Continuing claims, counting the people who have applied for unemployment benefits for at least two weeks in a row, declined to 20.9 million, compared with last week’s reported 21.3 million.
Economists have began focusing on continued claims as a better indicator of the state of the labor market last month, as many states began reopening their economies.