U.S. Jobless Claims Drop Less Than Expected, Top 36 Million Since Shutdown

While the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a continued decline in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended May 9th, the number of new claims still came in well above economist estimates.

The report said initial jobless claims fell to 2.981 million, a decrease of 195,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 3.176 million.

Economists had expected jobless claims to tumble to 2.5 million from the 3.169 million originally reported for the previous week.

Jobless claims have steadily decreased since reaching a record high of 6.867 million in late March, but the number of new claims has reached nearly 36.5 million since the coronavirus-induced economic shutdown.

“While initial claims for unemployment benefits continue to retreat from their peak, they remain at levels consistent with a labor market in distress,” said a note from economists at Oxford Economics.

They added, “And the headline figures don’t tell the full story since they don’t capture individuals receiving benefits under state and emergency programs.”

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average tumbled to 3,616,500, a decrease of 564,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 4,180,500.

Meanwhile, the report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, jumped by 456,000 to 22.833 million in the week ended May 2nd.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims also surged up to 19,760,000, an increase of 2,729,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 17,030,250.

Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing a record nosedive in employment in the U.S. in the month of April.

The report said non-farm payroll employment plummeted by 20.5 million jobs in April after tumbling by a revised 870,000 jobs in March.

The steep drop in employment was not as bad as feared, however, as economists had expected employment to plunge by 22.0 million jobs compared to the loss of 701,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

Nonetheless, the Labor Department said the unemployment rate still skyrocketed to a post-World War II record high of 14.7 percent in April from 4.4 percent in March. Economists had expected the unemployment rate to spike to 14.0 percent.

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