Weekly jobless claims total 5.245 million as 22 million jobs have been lost due to coronavirus

Protection measures against the coronavirus continued to tear through the employment ranks, with 5.245 million more Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The new filings bring the crisis total to just over 22 million, nearly wiping out all the job gains since the Great Recession.

The total was a bit worse than the 5 million expected from economists surveyed by Dow Jones.

Though the most recent count, for the week ended April 11, represented a drop from the previous two weeks, it still showed that the damage to the U.S. labor market remains profound.

“As we fully know the current state of the labor market with mass waves of layoffs, the key question turns to how many of these people will be rehired when the economy starts to reopen,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at the Bleakley Group. “We can assume it will take a long time for that to happen but hopefully we’re getting closer to at least getting started.”

The numbers of late have been bolstered by measures taken to allow more workers to file claims. They now include independent contractors and others who previously were not eligible for benefits.

Last week’s initially reported total of 6.606 million was revised up slightly to 6.615 million.

The four-week moving average, which during normal times is helpful in smoothing out weekly volatility in the numbers, jumped to 6.066 million, an increase of 2.568 million the previous week.

Stock market futures actually gained on the news and pointed to a slight gain at the market open.

There was some good in the data when looking at the numbers not adjusted for seasonal factors, which some economists say is unnecessary given the current unusual conditions.

The unadjusted total was 4.97 million, actually representing a plunge of 20% or more than 1.2 million from the previous week. Seasonal factors actually should have reflected about a 1% gain, according to the Labor Department. A comparable week in 2019 would have shown just 196,364 claims.

Most of the big states showed declines from the previous week in benefit applications, according to unadjusted numbers.

Pennsylvania posted a drop of 39,283, California was down by 257,848 and Michigan fell by 169,234. New York, which has lagged some of the larger states in terms of filings, saw a gain of 51,498 to 395,949. 

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