US weekly jobless claims hit 1.5 million, higher than economist forecasts – Business Insider – Business Insider

  • US jobless claims for the week that ended Saturday totaled 1.5 million, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was slightly higher than the consensus economist estimate of 1.3 million.
  • Thursday’s report marked the 12th straight week of declining claims. It also brought total filings over a 14-week period to about 47 million.
  • Continuing claims, the aggregate total of people receiving unemployment benefits, totaled 19.5 million for the week that ended June 13.
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More than a million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, signaling that pandemic-induced layoffs remain highly elevated even with the US economy reopening.

US weekly jobless claims totaled 1.5 million in the week that ended Saturday, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was slightly higher than the consensus economist estimate of 1.3 million, according to Bloomberg data. It’s the second week in a row in which weekly jobless claims have been higher than economist estimates.

In just a few months, the roughly 47 million unemployment claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic have far surpassed the roughly 37 million during the 18-month Great Recession. Even though weekly claims have consistently declined for 12 weeks in a row, they are still more than double the 665,000 filed during the Great Recession’s worst week.

“The labor market continues its lethargic recovery,” said Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor. “While recent economic indicators like the May jobs report stoked optimism for a swift recovery earlier this month, the slow improvement in continuing claims puts a damper on those high hopes.”

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initial unemployment claims week ending 6 20 20

Andy Kiersz / Business Insider

Continuing claims, which represent the aggregate total of people receiving unemployment benefits, came in at 19.5 million for the week that ended June 13, down from 20.5 million in the previous report.

“This was better than expected, but we would caution that it is rather choppy and could move higher once again next week,” said James Knightley, the chief international economist at ING.

The new numbers come amid other signs of recovery in the US. Retail sales rebounded sharply in May, homeowners appear to be rushing back to the housing market, and business activity is recovering from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic. And the May jobs report found that companies added 2.5 million payrolls from the previous month.

But elevated jobless claims remain a worrying metric, signaling that the labor market may not rebound as quickly or as consistently as hoped. Last week’s total was only about 60,000 lower than the prior week’s revised number.

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“We were going to hit a plateau, we hit it last week,” Robert Frick, an economist at the Navy Federal Credit Union, told Business Insider.

Claims have most likely remained elevated as the impact of sweeping coronavirus-related shutdowns spread beyond the industries first hit, leading to second and third waves of layoffs even as state economies reopen, he said. Now, rising numbers of infections in dozens of states have increased concerns about weekly claims.

Going forward, economists and industry watchers will continue to keep an eye on weekly jobless claims data to gauge the labor market’s recovery. Next week, the Labor Department is scheduled to release the June nonfarm payrolls report, which will give further information about the state of the recovery as the US reopens.

Claims filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which extended benefits to gig workers and independent contractors, were 728,120 in the week that ended June 20, a decline from the previous report. The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs — including PUA and state benefits — was an unadjusted 30.5 million in the week that ended June 6, an increase from a week prior.

Unadjusted initial claims fell roughly 6,000 last week, the smallest decline so far in the coronavirus pandemic.

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