WASHINGTON – Nearly 3.2 million more people made first-time filings for jobless benefits in the United States in the week ending May 2, as measures taken to combat the coronavirus pandemic continued to exact a heavy toll on the world’s largest economy, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
That latest figure brings the seven-week tally of initial unemployment insurance claims – a proxy for layoffs – to more than 33 million.
Initial jobless claims have steadily fallen from a peak of 6.86 million in the week ending March 28 but still reflect the massive economic impact of coronavirus-triggered lockdowns across much of the US.
The 33.5 million new applications for unemployment benefits filed since mid-March are equivalent to 22% of the working-age population. The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims, which smooths out week-to-week variations, came in at 4.17 million in the week ending May 2, down from 5.03 million the previous week.
Only six states saw a rise in initial jobless claims compared to the week ending April 25, with the number of those applications climbing by a non-seasonally adjusted 27,337 in Maryland, 15,737 in Oklahoma, 15,574 in New Jersey, 8,514 in Maine, 4,708 in New Mexico and 3,125 in Connecticut.
Of the 44 states whose initial jobless claims fell compared to the week ending April 25, by far the biggest drop occurred in Florida (-259,912), followed by Alabama (-46,783), Georgia (-39,681), Ohio (-32,553) and Pennsylvania (-31,293).
The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (also known as continued claims and reported with a one-week lag) during the week ending April 25 rose to a record 22.6 million, an increase of 4.6 million from the previous week, the department said.
The insured unemployment figure is an indicator that tracks people who have already filed an initial claim and experienced at least one week of unemployment before filing a continued claim.
The unemployment figures provide only a partial picture of the US labor market, since they do not account for millions of freelancers and subcontractors.
The Labor Department on Friday will release April unemployment figures, which are expected to reflect the massive impact of the states’ stay-at-home orders and mandatory closures of non-essential businesses nationwide during the health emergency.
After rising to 4.4% in March, some economists are forecasting that April’s headline jobless rate will soar to as high as 16%.