More than 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, suggesting that many workers are still losing their job even as the pace of layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the related lockdown is beginning to slow.
The latest jobless claims figures from the Labor Department, which covers the week ended June 13, pushes the three-month total of job losses since the shutdown began to around 46 million.
Economists surveyed by Refinitiv forecast 1.3 million, but the actual numbers represent just a slight drop from last week's revised total of 1.56 million.
The numbers remain at historically high levels, even as every U.S. states begins to gradually ease restrictions on residents and allow businesses to reopen. Still, it marks the 11th straight weekly decline of Americans seeking jobless benefits since claims peaked at close to 7 million at the end of March as the virus forced an unprecedented shutdown of the nation's economy.
The total number of people receiving unemployment aid edged lower to 20.5 million, down 62,000 from last week's revised total, as some workers began to return to their jobs. That's 744,000 more than expected.
In May, the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 13.3 percent from 14.7 percent, signaling the labor market had started a tepid recovery from the virus outbreak.
"The prolonged plateau of over 20 million continuing to claim UI benefits despite states reopening sends a strong signal that any labor market recovery will happen in fits and starts," said Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor. "The labor market’s path to recovery is littered with obstacles that could smother the rebound, from the expiration of federal support for businesses and workers to depressed consumer demand to the resurgence in COVID-19 cases.”
States that saw the biggest decline in claims include Florida, down 25,863, and Oklahoma, a decline of 20,788. Texas saw the biggest jump at 4,219.
Reopening from the lockdown has been complicated by a recent rise in COVID-19 cases. Texas, Florida and Nevada are among the states that have reported record increases this week.