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1 in 5 American workers has filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March

In total, more than 33 million people have filed first-time jobless claims since mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic is forcing businesses to close and lay off workers.

Posted: May 7, 2020 3:10 PM
Updated: May 7, 2020 3:10 PM

No end is in sight for coronavirus-related job losses.

The pandemic has ravaged the US labor market, and 1 in 5 American workers have filed for first-time unemployment benefits since mid-March, when lockdown measures took effect across the country.

Another 3.2 million Americans filed initial jobless claims last week, after factoring in seasonal adjustments, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.

Without those adjustments — which economists use to account for seasonal hiring fluctuations — the raw number was 2.8 million.

That brings the total number of seasonally-adjusted initial claims filed since mid-March to 33.5 million. Initial claims are considered a proxy for layoffs or furloughs, and that level represents about 21% of the March labor force.

These are staggeringly high numbers; weekly jobless claims were hovering in the 200,000s in the last few years before this crisis.

But last week also marked the fifth week in a row that the number of initial claims fell. They peaked at 6.9 million in the last week of March.

Economists say the downward trend is is a good sign that things aren't getting worse. Still, millions of new claims each week don't help the brutal overall picture of the job market during this pandemic.

Continued jobless claims, representing workers who filed for a second week of benefits or more, rose to 22.6 million.

Not all claims result in paid benefits. That is in part due to filing mistakes and because not everyone who submits a claim is eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

The continued claims suggest that few people are being called back to work. Those numbers could start to fall in coming weeks as lockdown restrictions begin to ease in some states, said Capital Economics' chief US economist Paul Ashworth.

But the pace of the recovery will depend on how willing consumers are to venture from their homes and spend money absent a coronavirus vaccine, said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.

In response to the crisis, the government broadened the definition of who is covered by unemployment benefits to include contractors, the self-employed and workers in the gig economy. The Department of Labor said that as of last week, all 50 states were paying out those extra benefits — but the agency has yet to release detailed breakdowns of how many claims have come in through that program in each state.

It did, however, note a total of 583,699 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance came in between 23 states that reported the data for the week ending May 2.

Overall, the past seven weeks of record-high claims, dwarfing the Labor Department's historical data, paint a clear picture: America's job market is in distress and people are suffering.

"The data point to an unprecedented cascading crisis that hit frontline services like restaurants and retail businesses first, but has now reached into every corner of our economy, from manufacturing to even the healthcare industry," said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

In Kentucky, home to many manufacturing plants, the number of initial jobless claims over the past seven weeks equates to nearly 33% of the state's March labor force. Hawaii and Georgia also have had claims representing more than 30% of their respective workforces.

On Wednesday, the ADP National Employment Report showed more than 20 million jobs were lost in the United States in April. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' official jobs report is due on Friday, with economists polled by Refinitiv expecting to see 22 million job losses and an unemployment rate of 16%, the worst layoffs on record.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48524

Reported Deaths: 2698
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11682684
Lake5180242
Elkhart330146
Allen2798132
St. Joseph196466
Cass16389
Hamilton1563101
Hendricks1410100
Johnson1288118
Porter73237
Tippecanoe7268
Madison65964
Clark65544
Bartholomew58644
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Howard57757
Kosciusko5494
Vanderburgh5486
Marshall4904
Noble48228
Jackson4723
LaGrange4709
Hancock45035
Boone44543
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Shelby42625
Floyd38144
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Clinton2892
Henry27415
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Decatur25032
Lawrence24625
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Harrison21822
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Miami1832
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
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Wayne1406
Orange13623
Perry1299
Steuben1292
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Carroll1102
Fayette997
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Huntington812
Randolph794
Wells731
Fulton721
Jefferson722
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Owen491
Benton480
Sullivan451
Posey420
Brown391
Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton321
Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57956

Reported Deaths: 2927
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10410429
Cuyahoga7883373
Hamilton6019198
Lucas2752302
Marion273438
Pickaway219741
Summit2143206
Montgomery203427
Mahoning1832232
Butler159944
Columbiana130760
Stark1123112
Lorain103567
Trumbull96770
Warren86021
Clark7669
Delaware58215
Fairfield57216
Tuscarawas56710
Belmont54922
Medina52332
Lake50018
Licking49312
Miami46631
Portage44258
Ashtabula43544
Wood42851
Clermont4146
Geauga40742
Wayne36351
Richland3455
Allen32141
Mercer2829
Greene2589
Darke25125
Erie24422
Holmes2363
Huron2202
Madison1978
Ottawa14923
Sandusky13614
Crawford1355
Washington13520
Putnam12815
Ross1273
Hardin12312
Morrow1161
Coshocton1112
Auglaize1074
Monroe8917
Jefferson882
Union861
Muskingum831
Hancock791
Hocking788
Guernsey743
Preble731
Lawrence710
Williams712
Clinton680
Shelby684
Logan621
Fulton610
Ashland591
Athens591
Carroll593
Wyandot596
Brown571
Defiance513
Knox511
Fayette460
Highland451
Scioto410
Champaign401
Perry351
Van Wert350
Seneca342
Henry300
Paulding250
Adams241
Jackson230
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Gallia181
Harrison121
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Morgan110
Noble110
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