US jobless claims climb by nearly 3m last week amid COVID-19 pandemic

Xinhua
The number of initial jobless claims in the United States totaled nearly 3 million last week as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the nation.
Xinhua

The number of initial jobless claims in the United States totaled nearly 3 million last week as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the nation, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

In the week ending May 9, the number of Americans filing for US unemployment benefits decreased by 195,000 from the prior week to 2,981,000, the sixth weekly decline in a row but higher than economists' expectation for 2.5 million.

With the latest numbers, more than 36.5 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 epidemic forced widespread business closures in mid-March.

The figures came after the Labor Department reported last week that US employers cut a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April, and the unemployment rate soared to a record 14.7 percent.

"Under the assumption that states do not need to lock down again, the month of May should set the high watermark for the unemployment rate near 20 percent," Jay H. Bryson, acting chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote Thursday in a note.

"But we forecast that the unemployment rate will recede to only 8 percent or so by the end of this year, and that it will still exceed 6 percent at the end of 2021. In other words, it likely will take a number of years for the labor market to fully recover from its pandemic-induced meltdown," he said.

Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at accounting and consulting firm RSM US LLP, said the latest data demands a sustained and increased policy response to address what is going to be mass unemployment for some time.

"This will require sustained fiscal aid, and eventually, once the economy begins to recover, a massive fiscal stimulus program to avoid a general economic depression. Fed liquidity commitments alone cannot avoid that general economic condition," he said.

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