Business

Another 3 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week

Some 3.1 million Americans filed for government jobless benefits in the week ended May 2, bringing the total number of newly unemployed people since the pandemic began to more than 33 million.

Nearly one quarter of U.S. working-age population has now filed for jobless benefits

The U.S. Department of Labor says 3,169,000 people filed for initial jobless claims in the week ended May 2, a decrease of 677,000 from the previous week's level. (Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg)

New figures released Thursday show that 3.1 million Americans filed for government jobless benefits in the week ended May 2, bringing the total number of newly unemployed people since the pandemic began to more than 33 million.

The U.S. Department of Labor says 3,169,000 people filed for initial jobless claims, a decrease of 677,000 from the previous week's level.

The figure was slightly lower than the 3.3. million new filers that economists had been expecting, but it brings the seven-week total to more than 33 million. That's almost one quarter of the working-age population in the world's largest economy.

The jobless claims figure comes a day before a different U.S. government department is set to reveal the official jobs report for April, which is expected to obliterate the previous record for monthly job losses with in excess of 20 million people being newly out of work.

"Tomorrow's nonfarm payrolls report is going to print such a massive decline that it will feel like someone punched you in the gut," Bank of Montreal economist Jennifer Lee said. While it's encouraging that the initial claims figure has now fallen for five weeks in a row, it is still counted in the millions, which is "still far, far above what anyone wants to see."

While more than 33 million people have filed for initial jobless claims, what's even more concerning is that the number of people who are staying on the jobless rolls is also continuing to inch higher, up to 22.6 million people as of the end of April.

That implies that people are not just losing their jobs, but they're also unable to find work for an extended period. The longer they stay jobless, the worse it is.

"If this series stays elevated for long, then that would be a sign of temporary losses becoming permanent," Lee said.

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