On the heels of worse-than-anticipated first-quarter GDP data, investors got additional economic data Thursday to reflect the ongoing damage being done to the U.S. economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Labor Department released its weekly jobless claims figures Thursday morning, and another 3.839 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the week ending April 25. Economists were predicting 3.5 million claims for the week, and the prior week’s figure was revised higher to 4.44 million from 4.43 million. In just the previous six weeks, more than 30 million Americans have filed unemployment insurance claims.
Read more: How to file for unemployment insurance
Continuing claims, which lags initial jobless claims data by one week, totaled 17.99 million for the week ending April 18. The prior week’s record 15.98 million continuing claims was revised lower to 15.82 million.
“This is the fourth consecutive slowing in the pace of new jobless claims, but it is still horrible and underlines the severe economic consequences of the Covid-19 containment measures,” ING economist James Knightley wrote in a note Thursday.
“The re-opening of some states, including Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida, appear to have gone fairly slowly. Consumers remain reluctant to go shopping or visit a restaurant due to lingering COVID-19 fears, while the social distancing restrictions placed on the number of customers allowed in restaurants do not make it economically justifiable for some to open. Evidence so far suggests very little chance of a V-shaped recovery, meaning that unemployment is unlikely to come down anywhere near as quickly as it has been going up,” Knightley added.
Certain states got hit harder than others last week as massive backlogs continued to pile up, and states that implemented shelter-in-place orders later than others saw an increase in claims. For the week ending April 25, Florida saw the highest number of initial jobless claims at an estimated 432,000 on an unadjusted basis, from 507,000 in the prior week. California reported 328,000, down from 528,000 in the previous week. Georgia had an estimated 265,000 and Texas reported 254,000.
While consensus economists anticipate weekly jobless claims will be in the millions in the near term, a continued steady decline is largely expected going forward.
“We expect initial jobless claims to continue to decline on a weekly basis. Many workers affected by closures of nonessential businesses have likely already filed for benefits at this point,” Nomura economist Lewis Alexander wrote in a note April 27. “In addition, the strong demand for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, part of the CARES Act passed on 27 March, suggests some room for labor market stabilization.”
However, Barclays warned that some recent data indicated that the decline in weekly claims could actually be slower than previously estimated.
“NYC 311 calls in the week ending April 24 were running about 30% higher than a week earlier and support our change in forecast,” Barclays economist Blerina Uruci wrote in a note Wednesday. “In particular, we find it concerning that after declining steadily in recent weeks, the number of calls related to unemployment rose again during the week ending April 24.”
The firm increased its estimate for weekly jobless claims to 4 million from the previously estimated 3.25 million for the week ending April 25. Bank of America also boosted its estimate for claims to 4.1 million from the previously forecast 3.5 million claims.
“Scanning through the local news, we were able to locate information about ten states + DC. We found that claims declined only 2.5% week-to-week NSA [not seasonally adjusted],” Bank of America said in a note Wednesday.
COVID-19 cases recently topped 3.2 million worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. There were more than 1 million cases in the U.S. and 60,000 deaths, as of Thursday morning.
Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.
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