Another 4.4 Million Americans Sought Unemployment Benefits Last Week

Workers have filed more than 26 million jobless claims since start of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

About 4.4 million Americans applied for jobless benefits in the week ended April 18, the Labor Department said Thursday. Jobless claims, which are laid-off workers’ applications for unemployment-insurance payments, had reached 5.2 million a week earlier. Since the pandemic led to widespread shutdowns in mid-March, workers have filed more than 26 million unemployment insurance claims.

Some economists say unemployment claims likely peaked in late March when they reached nearly 7 million. Most states recorded a declining number of new claimants last week.


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Others expect a fresh surge of claims in future weeks as workers who were previously unable to file because of backlogged state systems are counted, and as states begin to accept applications from people who are newly eligible under a $2 trillion stimulus package, such as independent contractors and self-employed individuals.

The number of workers receiving unemployment insurance continues to rise as states process applications. In the week that ended April 11, a record 16 million Americans received unemployment payments, up from 12 million the previous week. The data date back to 1967. So-called continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.

“These unbelievable numbers are masking a lot of the true demand, and that’s what we’re going to continue to see play out over the next month,” Maria Flynn, president of Jobs for the Future, a workforce development nonprofit, said before Thursday’s data.

Washington state offers a window into the potential impact of the federal stimulus on jobless claims. The state saw more unemployment-benefits applications on Saturday night through Sunday than during its biggest week on record, as it launched a “massive update” to its computer systems to start processing expanded unemployment benefits.

Gig-economy workers, self-employed people and those seeking part-time work were among those newly eligible to apply as the state began implementing a key provision of the law.

Rhode Island also experienced a sharp surge in claims when it began accepting applications included in the expanded unemployment assistance.



Compared with other states, Hawaii, Michigan and Rhode Island have seen a relatively large share of their labor forces apply for unemployment benefits in the past month.

Dennis Fithian, 49 years old, of Detroit, was able to register for unemployment insurance benefits relatively quickly after he was laid off from his job at sports radio station 97.1 The Ticket in early April.

Despite high claims volume in Michigan, Mr. Fithian said his wife was persistent in helping him apply online. “She would get up at 2 or 3 in the morning and keep hitting ‘refresh’ until she was able to get in,” he said.

The couple’s biggest immediate concern is losing his health insurance at the end of April—a worry made even more acute by the fact that his 14-year-old daughter suffers from a rare, incurable disease. “I mostly worked for the love of the job. It wasn’t for the great money, so we’ve always budgeted. But just looking at the summer ahead, the health insurance—that’s going to get really pricey,” he said.

The steepest employment losses appeared to occur between mid- and late March, when the economy shed about 13 million jobs, largely in leisure and hospitality, according to Federal Reserve research. By comparison, about 9 million jobs were lost over the course of the 2007-9 recession.

Oxford Economics estimates that the pandemic will result in 27.9 million lost jobs, including between 8 million and 10 million in industries such as manufacturing and construction that most states haven’t ordered to close.

The federal stimulus package was designed to blunt the economic damage from the coronavirus. As of Monday, more than 40 states were paying recipients an additional $600 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits on top of usual state payments, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said earlier this week.

The extra $600, which is paid in addition to regular unemployment benefits, could lead to a larger weekly paycheck than many lower-wage workers would typically earn. For others, like Joshua Price, of Syracuse, N.Y., it amounts to much less than they were previously making.

Mr. Price, 46, began receiving unemployment benefits in late March after he lost his homebound math teaching job due to government-mandated public school closures.

He gets a total of $1,104 in weekly benefits, including the extra $600 a week, which works out to 56% of his previous income.

Mr. Price normally tries to save $750 a week, but with tax bills and insurance bills, he is now saving very little. “I don’t believe I should have to go into my savings to pay bills when it’s a government-mandated work stoppage,” Mr. Price said.



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The Number Of Americans Filing Applications For Unemployment Benefits Increased Moderately Last Week


< StockMarketNews.Today > … Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000 for the week ended July 13, the Labor Department said, remaining in the middle of their 193,000-230,000 range for this year. Last week’s increase in claims was in line with economists’ expectations.

The claims data tends to be volatile around this time of the year because of summer factory closures, especially in the automobile industry, which occur at different periods. This can throw off the model the government uses to strip out seasonal fluctuations from the data.

Layoffs remain low despite the U.S.-China trade tensions, which have contributed to a dimming of the economy’s outlook and led the Federal Reserve to signal it would cut interest rates at its July 30-31 meeting for the first time in a decade.


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Last week’s claims data covered the survey period for the nonfarm payrolls component of July’s employment report. Claims were little changed between the June and July survey periods, suggesting strong job growth this month. The economy created 224,000 jobs in June.

“Firms remain extraordinarily reluctant to lay off workers and the labor market remains extremely tight,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York. “There is no reason to expect anything but a solid jobs report for the month.”

The dollar was steady against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasury prices fell. Stocks on Wall Street were lower.

WORKERS SCARCE… There are, however, concerns that a shortage of workers and the Trump administration’s tougher stance on immigration could impede job growth. The Fed’s Beige Book report of anecdotal information on business activity collected from contacts nationwide published on Wednesday showed some manufacturing and information technology firms in the Northeast reduced their number of workers from mid-May through early July.

It said “a few reports highlighted concerns about securing and renewing work visas, flagging this as a source of uncertainty for continued employment growth.”

Solid job growth is helping to underpin the economy, which is slowing as last year’s massive stimulus from tax cuts and more government spending fades. Weak manufacturing and housing, as well as a widening trade deficit are partially offsetting strong consumer spending.

The Atlanta Fed is forecasting gross domestic product rising at a 1.6% annualized rate in the second quarter. The economy grew at a 3.1% pace in the January-March period.

The slowdown in activity was underscored by a second report on Thursday from the Conference Board showing its measure of future economic growth fell for the first time in six months in June. The 0.3% drop in the leading indicator, the largest since January 2016, “suggests growth is likely to remain slow in the second half of the year,” the Conference Board said.


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But manufacturing appears to be improving. In a third report, the Philadelphia Fed said its business conditions index jumped to a reading of 21.8 in July from 0.3 in June.

That was the highest level since July 2018 and reflected strong increases in measures of new orders, employment and shipments. The improvement in manufacturing in the region that covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware mirrors other measures on factory activity.

It probably overstates the outlook for manufacturing, however. A survey from the New York Fed on Monday showed a mild rebound in its business conditions index in July after contracting in June.

While overall manufacturing production increased last month, output at factories fell at a 2.2% annual rate in the second quarter, the sharpest decline in three years, the Fed reported on Tuesday. Manufacturing production dropped at a 1.9% pace in the first quarter. “The troubles that have plagued industry continue to linger,” said Roiana Reid, an economist at Berenberg Capital Markets in New York.

The Philadelphia Fed survey’s measure of prices received by manufacturers in the mid-Atlantic region increased this month, as did a gauge of prices paid by factories. Both measures, however, remained well below their lofty readings over the past few month, consistent with expectations of moderate inflation.

The survey’s six-month business conditions index jumped to a reading of 38.0 this month, the highest reading since May 2018, from 21.4 in June. Its six-month capital expenditures index increased to 36.9 from a reading of 28.0 in the prior month.