US virus layoffs top 45 million as 1.5 million file new jobless claims

The jobless claims data shows churn and volatility in a labour market.
The jobless claims data shows churn and volatility in a labour market.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - Another 1.5 million US workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday (June 18), bringing the number of people laid off, at least temporarily, by Covid-19 to 45.7 million.

The number of new jobless claims was surprisingly high, a decrease of only 58,000 from the previous week's level, while the insured unemployment rate showing people still receiving aid remained unchanged at 14.1 per cent, and 20.5 million continue to receive benefits.

Initial jobless claims for regular state programmes totalled 1.51 million in the week ended June 13, down slightly from an upwardly revised 1.57 million in the week before.

Applications have exceeded a once-unthinkable 1 million on a weekly basis since mid-March.

Continuing claims - the total number of Americans claiming ongoing unemployment benefits in state programmes - decreased to 20.5 million in the week ended June 6, compared with a median projection of 19.9 million. These figures are reported with a one-week lag.

Given the unprecedented surge of claims in recent months, many economists look to the non-seasonally adjusted figures for a more accurate read on claims.

Unadjusted continuing claims actually climbed by almost 26,000 to 18.7 million. Unadjusted initial claims dropped by more than 128,000 last week, compared with the seasonally adjusted 58,000 decline.

By several metrics, the economy has rebounded at a faster pace than many anticipated.

Payrolls at companies increased by several millions in May and consumer spending on cars, restaurant meals and more soared last month, exceeding expectations as states loosened restrictions.


But the jobless claims data remain a glaring blemish that shows churn and volatility in a labour markets.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell underscored this dichotomy to lawmakers on Tuesday when he said: "We would expect to see large numbers of people during this period coming back to work during this second period - call it the bounce back or the beginning of the recovery.

"Then we think, and I think most if not all forecasters think, that will leave us well short of where we were in February."