Another 3 million Americans file for unemployment benefits

In total, 36.5 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 14, 2020 10:51 PM
Updated: May 14, 2020 10:51 PM

Millions of Americans are relying on unemployment benefits for their livelihoods after losing their jobs to the coronavirus crisis.

Another 3 million people filed initial unemployment claims last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Department of Labor.

That brings the total number of first-time claimants to 36.5 million since mid-March. That represents 22.4% of the March labor force. America's labor force shrank in April, as the crisis worsened.

Without the seasonal adjustment, first-time claims were slightly lower at 2.6 million.

Last week's claims exceeded economists' consensus expectations by nearly 500,000. Even so it was the eighth week in a row that the number of initial claims decreased after peaking at 6.9 million in the final week of March. Economists say this is relatively good news because it means claims are heading in the right direction.

Last week's number might also be revised down further in the next data release. The Connecticut Labor Department said Thursday afternoon that its initial claims number was overstated due to a "data entry reporting error".

While the report counts 298,680 first-time claims in Connecticut last week, the state actually only registered 29,846 claims, a representative of the state's Department of Labor told CNN Business.

Initial jobless claims are one of the most "real-time" measures of the economy. Most economic data lags behind by weeks if not months. That's why the weekly claims data are so important during this crisis. Still, the numbers don't include people filing claims for the government's emergency funds.

But now that initial claims have been falling for two months straight, economists are beginning to shift their focus to continuing jobless claims, which count people who are filing multiple weeks in a row but trail the report of initial claims by a week. That number stood at 22.8 in the week ended May 2, up slightly from the prior period.

A decrease in continuing claims could signal that the reopening of the economy is successful in getting people who lost their jobs from the lockdown are re-entering the labor market.

Kentucky remained the state with the largest percentage of the March labor force -- 36.2% -- filing for regular unemployment benefits.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly jobs report, America lost more than 20 million jobs in April alone, pushing the unemployment rate to 14.7%. But predictions for the May unemployment rate are even higher. Goldman Sachs said earlier this week it expected a rate of 25%. Unemployment claims to not equal lost jobs, as the two data points are based on different surveys. The survey the unemployment rate is based on wraps up around the middle of the month.

As states begin to reopen their economies in the coming weeks, the rehiring workers should offset further layoffs, said Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics. This means peak unemployment could be near.

Special government assistance

In addition to regular unemployment insurance, nearly 842,000 people in 29 states last week filed initial claims for the pandemic unemployment assistance program, which Congress created to provide benefits to independent contractors, the self employed, gig workers and certain people affected by the coronavirus. That's in addition to the almost 1.8 million Americans who filed first-time pandemic program claims over the two weeks ending May 2. All these applicants are not included in the seasonally adjusted data for the traditional unemployment program.

More than 3.4 million Americans in 23 states were receiving benefits under the PUA program in the week ending April 25, a spike of more than 2.4 million in seven days. Michigan had the highest number of residents filing initial claims and receiving payments under the pandemic program, followed by California.

Government spending soars

Spending on unemployment benefits has skyrocketed to more than $100 billion so far this fiscal year, a huge jump from only a few weeks ago, according to Treasury Department data.

Federal and state outlays totaled just under $102 billion, as of May 12, up from $12.7 billion at the beginning of March.

Nearly $37 billion has already been spent this month alone.

In April, the federal government paid out nearly $27 billion in unemployment benefits as the money from Congress' historic enhancement to the program started to flow, Treasury Department data shows.

Lawmakers in late March approved a $600 boost to weekly payments for up to four months and added 13 weeks to benefits, both compliments of the federal government. Also, they expanded eligibility to independent contractors, the self-employed, gig workers and certain people affected by coronavirus through the end of the year -- also federally funded. The measure was expected to cost about $260 billion when it was passed as part of a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

States, meanwhile, delivered just over $21 billion in benefits in April, up from about $4 billion the month before.

The combined $48 billion paid out in April is the equivalent of more than triple the amount distributed at the monthly peak of the Great Recession, after adjusting for inflation, according to a new report from The Hamilton Project at Brookings Institution.

Unemployment benefits offset a small portion of personal income decline in March, but roughly half of lost wages and salaries in April, according to the researchers' preliminary calculations.

As more Americans join and remain on the unemployment insurance program, spending will continue to skyrocket. The outlays to date show that states have struggled to handle the surge in claims and to implement the federal provisions, said Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at Evercore ISI and former Treasury official.

"States have been slow to integrate the new emergency payments for regular unemployment insurance beneficiaries, and states have been super slow in implementing the brand new PUA benefits," said Tedeschi. "This shows states have catching up to do."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113337

Reported Deaths: 3530
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20936761
Lake10334319
Elkhart6438109
St. Joseph6226103
Allen6060200
Hamilton4761109
Vanderburgh349430
Hendricks2681122
Monroe251236
Tippecanoe231213
Johnson2279123
Clark215756
Porter209046
Cass19339
Delaware189561
Vigo178524
Madison161075
LaPorte138239
Floyd132161
Howard129063
Warrick122336
Kosciusko120617
Bartholomew115357
Marshall99424
Dubois95918
Boone95646
Hancock91443
Grant89733
Noble89432
Henry78125
Wayne74714
Jackson7429
Morgan70638
Shelby66629
Daviess65428
Dearborn63928
LaGrange63211
Clinton59513
Harrison56424
Putnam53810
Lawrence50628
Montgomery50521
Knox5039
Gibson4894
White48214
DeKalb46311
Decatur45739
Miami4303
Greene41935
Fayette41813
Jasper3862
Steuben3747
Scott35910
Sullivan33112
Jennings31212
Posey3090
Franklin30325
Clay2985
Orange28624
Ripley2828
Carroll27113
Wabash2628
Washington2611
Whitley2556
Starke2537
Adams2523
Wells2503
Jefferson2443
Fulton2352
Huntington2223
Spencer2223
Tipton22022
Perry21513
Randolph2097
Jay1750
Newton17211
Owen1671
Martin1640
Rush1534
Pike1411
Vermillion1260
Fountain1202
Pulaski1151
Blackford1133
Brown1033
Crawford1030
Parke961
Benton880
Ohio777
Union770
Switzerland690
Warren391
Unassigned0225

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 146753

Reported Deaths: 4687
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26393606
Cuyahoga17262654
Hamilton12913312
Montgomery7623157
Lucas7205361
Butler5771106
Summit5202250
Marion307547
Mahoning3014280
Warren297848
Stark2790170
Pickaway264144
Lorain229386
Delaware218820
Fairfield205852
Columbiana192380
Licking188362
Trumbull1861131
Clark176439
Wood175272
Clermont166521
Lake159650
Medina144239
Greene139732
Miami139451
Allen139369
Portage111066
Mercer108517
Erie92645
Tuscarawas92020
Wayne91367
Ross86523
Richland81519
Madison79212
Darke78041
Belmont71427
Geauga70948
Hancock67610
Ashtabula65348
Athens6362
Lawrence62722
Shelby59710
Auglaize5769
Putnam56823
Sandusky55820
Huron5387
Union5092
Scioto4826
Ottawa46630
Seneca46414
Preble42515
Muskingum3862
Holmes3787
Jefferson3334
Henry30713
Logan3053
Champaign3003
Perry2929
Defiance28610
Clinton28413
Brown2832
Knox28215
Morrow2552
Washington25523
Hardin25213
Jackson2414
Fulton2391
Coshocton23211
Ashland2314
Crawford2286
Fayette2276
Highland2223
Williams2053
Wyandot20512
Gallia18812
Meigs17410
Pike1740
Hocking1619
Guernsey1608
Carroll1517
Adams1264
Van Wert1143
Monroe11018
Paulding1060
Harrison622
Morgan470
Vinton453
Noble270
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