First-time claims for unemployment benefits totaled 2.1 million last week, the lowest total since the coronavirus crisis began though indicative that a historically high number of Americans remain separated from their jobs.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for 2.05 million. The total represented a decrease of 323,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised 2.438 million.
Continuing claims, or those who have been collecting for at least two weeks, numbered 21.05 million, a clearer picture of how many workers are still sidelined. That number dropped sharply, falling 3.86 million from the previous week.
The insured unemployment rate, which is a basic calculation of those collecting benefits vs. the total labor force, came down sharply to 14.5% from 17.1% the previous week.
Since the pandemic was declared in mid-March, more than 40 million have filed claims.
The high jobless numbers persist even as all states have reopened their economies to various extents. Las Vegas casinos will be resuming activities late next week, Disney resorts also have targeted July reopening dates and Los Angeles is allowing retail stores to resume business. Restrictions are likely to be loosened soon in New York as well.
Still, businesses are wrestling with multiple dynamics stemming from the biggest surge in in layoffs since the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that business owners are seeing workers reluctant to return to their jobs because of safety concerns, child care issues and “generous” unemployment benefits from the government.
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