More than 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment in the past week

Daniel Fowler
May 24, 2020

"None of these states had systems set up to process the unprecedented amount of claims in one fell swoop, so there are backlogs", said Steve Blitz, chief U.S. economist at TS Lombard in NY.

The previous monthly record for unemployment claim filings in DE over the past three decades was a little more than 9,600 in January 2002.

The state also reported fewer layoffs in the manufacturing, healthcare and social assitance industries.

Initial claims appeared to have passed their peak hit in late March, and the latest figure is down 249,000 from the almost 2.7 million claims file in the week ended May 9.

Although the number is staggering, weekly claims have been gradually declining since hitting a record 6.9 million in the last week of March.

These workers generally do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance, but to get federal aid for coronavirus-related job and income losses they must first file for state benefits and be denied. Florida had 221,000 claims, California 214,000, and NY roughly 200,000.

Jobless claims have reached into the millions on a weekly basis since mid-March, underscoring the depth and breadth of job losses.

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While that's a positive development, openings are gradual and far short of need. As the pandemic drags on, the ripple effects will continue to grow, possibly reaching those who - until that point - were still employed.

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 survey of employers showed seasonally adjusted non-farm payrolls fell by more than 1 million in April to just above 5 million.

The enormous influx of claims has overwhelmed state unemployment offices. Continuing claims on that basis totaled 22.9 million for the week ended May 9, following 20.9 million.

Still, economists say the claims number remains high because states have begun processing applications for gig workers and many others trying to access federal government benefits.

"While the steady decline in claims is good news, the labour market is still in awful shape", said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial. The fix was reflected in Thursday's report.

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