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New York (CNN Business) – No end in sight for coronavirus-related job losses.
Another 3.2 million Americans first applied for unemployment benefits last week, after taking into account seasonal adjustments, the Labor Department reported Thursday.RELATED
Without those adjustments, which economists use to account for seasonal fluctuations in hiring, the gross number was 2.8 million.
That brings the total number of seasonally adjusted initial claims filed since mid-March to 33.5 million. Initial applications are considered an indicator of layoffs or licenses, and that level represents approximately 21% of the March workforce.
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These numbers are staggeringly high; weekly claims for unemployment benefits hovered around 200,000 in recent years before this crisis.
But last week also marked the fifth consecutive week that the number of initial requests fell. It peaked at 6.9 million in the last week of March.
Economists say the downward trend is a good sign that things are not getting worse. But still, millions of new claims each week do not help the brutal overall picture of the job market during this pandemic.
Continuing claims for unemployment benefits, representing workers who applied for a second week of benefits or more, rose to 22.6 million.
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Not all applications result in paid benefits. This is due in part to filing errors and because not everyone who files is eligible for unemployment benefits.
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In response to the crisis, the government expanded the definition of who is covered by benefits to include contractors, freelancers, and others. The Department of Labor said that as of last week, all 50 states were paying those fringe benefits, but the agency has yet to release detailed breakdowns of how many applications have come through that program in each state.
Overall, the past seven weeks of record applications, which make historical data from the Department of Labor look minuscule, show a clear picture: The US job market is in danger and people are suffering.
This Wednesday, the ADP National Employment Report showed that in April more than 20 million jobs were lost in the United States. The official job report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will be released this Friday, and economists surveyed by Refinitiv expect to see 22 million job losses and an unemployment rate of 16%, the worst layoffs on record.