US pandemic layoffs pass 42 million with 1.87 million new weekly claims

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 04 2020 10:14 PM

People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment benefits, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Arkansas Workforce Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas, U.S. April 6, 2020. Nick Oxford, Reuters file photo

WASHINGTON - The ranks of US workers laid off at least temporarily by the coronavirus pandemic exceeded 42 million, with 1.87 million new jobless benefit claims filed last week, the Labor Department said.

The number of new claims filed in the week ended May 30 were slightly worse than expected but 249,000 less than the week prior, indicating the unprecedented layoffs were slowing.

"This and other indicators suggest not that the job market is improving but that it's getting bad less quickly," tweeted Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank, noting this week's claims were 2.7 times higher than the previous one-week record.

The insured unemployment rate indicating the number of people actually receiving benefits ticked up half a point to 14.8 percent the week ended May 23, with 21.5 million people receiving benefits.

That indicated fewer people were returning to work after last week's report showed the rate of people receiving benefits decreasing, perhaps from the impact of states allowing businesses to reopen.

The weekly government data comes ahead of the Labor Department's monthly unemployment report due out Friday, where April's 14.7 percent unemployment rate is set to head further upwards.

"National unemployment rate is likely at or above 20 percent, twice that of the Great Recession peak and full employment years away," Bernstein said.