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Jobless claims: Another 2.438 million Americans file for unemployment benefits

Heidi Chung
Reporter

Even as an increasing number of states began reopening their economies across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc on employment in the U.S. last week.

An additional 2.438 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 16. Economists were expecting 2.4 million initial jobless claims during the week. The prior week’s figure was revised lower to 2.69 million from the previously reported 2.98 million. Over the past nine weeks, more than 38 million Americans have filed unemployment insurance claims.

Read more: Coronavirus: How to find a job in a tough economy

(Yahoo Finance/David Foster)

“With a ninth straight week of new weekly jobless claims being counted in the millions, although at a lower level than before, one might be tempted to focus on the continuing decline.  But at 2.4 million new claims last week, the seismic impact should not be dismissed because earlier shock waves were larger,” Bankrate Senior Economic Analyst Mark Hamrick said in an email Thursday. “This number of new claims alone is about equal to the population of the city of Houston, Texas.”

After hitting a record in the week ending March 28, the weekly initial jobless claims figure has been on a steady decline. Most states in recent weeks have seen substantial decreases in weekly claims.

In the week ending May 16, California reported the highest number of jobless claims at an estimated 246,000 on an unadjusted basis, up from 213,000 in the previous week. New York had 227,000, up from 199,000. Florida reported 224,000 and Georgia had roughly 177,000 jobless claims.

Continuing claims, which lags initial jobless claims data by one week, totaled a record 25.07 million in the week ending May 9 following 22.59 million in the previous week. Economists were estimating 24.25 million continuing claims for the week.

“The sharp rise in continuing claims the week before illustrates that the easing of lockdowns in many states has not yet resulted in any large-scale recall to work for those currently on temporary layoff,” Capital Economics said in a note Thursday.

“The states may be opening back up, but the labor market is still closed for millions across America and the loss of the income and spending of those without jobs will be a considerable headwind for this economic recovery,” MUFG Chief Financial Economist Chris Rupkey wrote in an email Thursday.

As of Thursday morning, there were more than 5 million coronavirus cases and 328,500 deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. In the U.S., there were 1.55 million cases and 93,400 deaths.

Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.

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