COVID-19 unemployment claims approach 39 million since mid-March

Daniel Fowler
May 22, 2020

Another 2.43 million USA workers were put out of work last week amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to government data Thursday, bringing the total since mid-March to a massive 38.6 million.

Economists said claims numbers were staying high also as states were now processing applications for gig workers and many others trying to access federal government benefits.

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.

Continuing claims (which lag behind initial jobless claims data by one week) are anticipated to total 23.5 million for the week ending May 9, after a record 22.83 million in the previous week.

Continuing claims under the PUA program totaled 6.12 million as of May 2.

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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.

While most states showed a decline in initial claims last week, the data showed significant increases in California, New York and Washington. The economy lost a record 20.5 million jobs in April, on top of the 881,000 shed in March.

Unemployment is expected to remain elevated through the end of next year, and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told lawmakers earlier this week that longer-term joblessness risks extended damage to the economy.

A separate report Thursday showed US sales of previously owned homes fell in April by the most since mid-2010. That's down 249,000 from the revised number of claims filed in the week ending May 9.

The number of claims has been so massive that nine state unemployment trust funds have already applied to borrow money from the U.S. Treasury to backfill their unemployment funds. The fix was reflected in Thursday's report.

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