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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.

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
Washington332047
LaGrange321375
Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1365800

Reported Deaths: 21596
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1522221560
Cuyahoga1344852327
Hamilton976051320
Montgomery670271141
Summit562091047
Lucas50900863
Butler47417655
Stark41580976
Lorain31567532
Warren30001331
Mahoning26963639
Clermont25628292
Lake24585417
Delaware22313145
Licking20487241
Fairfield20420221
Greene20309272
Trumbull19866509
Medina19796287
Clark17879328
Richland16314234
Portage16130229
Wood15681208
Allen14115256
Miami13786253
Muskingum12641152
Wayne11946238
Columbiana11708241
Tuscarawas10953269
Marion10725148
Pickaway10465129
Scioto10324127
Erie9747171
Ross9436176
Lawrence8755125
Hancock8458141
Ashtabula8317185
Geauga8173156
Belmont8140187
Jefferson7527172
Huron7423128
Union731851
Washington7183120
Athens697165
Sandusky6848134
Darke6756136
Knox6671122
Seneca6358137
Ashland5948113
Auglaize587188
Shelby5727101
Brown564171
Mercer557890
Defiance5483101
Madison543371
Crawford5425114
Highland541581
Fulton530683
Clinton525580
Logan512182
Preble4994110
Putnam4833106
Guernsey470364
Williams459282
Perry449852
Champaign445964
Ottawa436884
Jackson425362
Pike388843
Morrow383851
Fayette375853
Coshocton374766
Adams360675
Hardin359069
Gallia347356
Holmes3259108
Henry324668
Van Wert314670
Hocking301769
Wyandot280658
Carroll262652
Paulding242243
Meigs213942
Monroe189749
Noble169340
Morgan165829
Harrison157940
Vinton138118
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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Huntington
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Decatur
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Van Wert
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Sunshine and warmer air return to round out the work week, but the warm-up is brief.
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