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US weekly jobless claims hit 1.4 million, more than economist forecasts

US weekly jobless claims hit 1.4 million, more than economist forecasts
US weekly jobless claims hit 1.4 million, more than economist forecasts

Despite the historically elevated number, Thursday's Labor Department report marked the 13th straight week of declining claims.

  • US jobless claims for the week that ended Saturday totaled 1.43 million, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was slightly higher than the consensus economist estimate of 1.35 million.
  • Thursday's report marked the 13th straight week of declining claims. It also brought total filings over a 15-week period to nearly 49 million.
  • Continuing claims, the aggregate total of people receiving unemployment benefits, totaled 19.3 million for the week that ended June 20.
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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 1.43 million in the week that ended Saturday, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was slightly more than the consensus economist estimate of 1.35 million, according to Bloomberg data.

In just a few months, the roughly 49 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 now consistently declined for 13 weeks in a row, the latest figure is still more than double the 665,000 filed during the Great Recession's worst week.

"The more timely UI claims data signals the recovery is continuing sluggishly even as COVID-19 cases climb across the country, but the second wave of cases raises the specter of a second wave of economic disruption," said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor.

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initial unemployment clais week ending 6 27 20
Andy Kiersz / Business Insider

Continuing claims, which represent the aggregate total of people receiving unemployment benefits, came in at 19.3 million for the week that ended June 20, roughly in line with a revised number from the prior period.

In addition, for the week that ended Saturday, 47 states reported 839,563 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program that extended benefits to independent contractors and gig workers. That's an increase from the week prior.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs — PUA and state benefits — was about 31 million in the week that ended June 13, an uptick from the previous week.

Other data has indicated early signs of a US economic recovery. Pending home sales surged a record 44% in May, US consumer confidence jumped by its most since 2011 with states reopening, and a gauge of manufacturing rose by its most since 1980.

The same day, the June nonfarm payrolls report was released from the government. It showed that the US added 4.8 million jobs during the month — a record — and that the unemployment rate declined to a still-elevated 11.1%.

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Still, other data disappointed — weekly mortgage applications declined, and ADP's June employment report showed fewer jobs were added in the month than economists expected. And stubbornly high weekly unemployment claims remain a worrying sign that the labor market might not rebound as quickly as hoped.

Elevated weekly claims show that "there's a long tail to this phenomenon," Seth Carpenter, the chief US economist at UBS, told Business Insider. Even though the US is adding jobs, there are still a lot of people getting laid off, he noted.

Going forward, workers are likely to be affected by surging coronavirus cases that have threatened or set back reopening efforts in some states. California and Arizona on Wednesday saw record COVID-19 cases, and as many as 14 states have paused or rolled back reopening plans to deal with new outbreaks.

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