Another 1.48 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, signaling a slow economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown as layoffs remain historically high, even as many businesses have reopened.
The latest jobless claims figures from the Labor Department, which covers the week ended June 20, pushes the number of job losses since the shutdown began to around 47 million.
Economists surveyed by Refinitiv forecast 1.3 million. The previous week's number was revised up by 32,000 1.54 million.
The numbers remain at historically high levels, even as every U.S. state begins to gradually ease restrictions on residents and allows businesses to reopen. It's the 14th week in a row that jobless claims came in above 1 million; before the pandemic, the record high was 695,000 set in 1982.
Still, it marks the 12th 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. Continuing claims, the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid, fell by 767,000 to 19.52 million.
California saw the biggest jump in applications last week, jumping by 45,930. The state is one of several, including Florida, Texas and Arizona, that has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases over the past week.
The sudden resurgence in cases has rattled the markets, threatening to derail the nation's slow, but steady, recovery from the pandemic. On Wednesday, the nation set a record high of new cases.
“The labor market continues its lethargic recovery as we see another week of only modest declines in the tens of millions of Americans continuing to claim UI benefits amid an ongoing pandemic," said Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor. "While recent economic indicators like the May jobs report stoked optimism for a swift recovery earlier this month, the slow improvement in continuing claims puts a damper on those high hopes."
A surprisingly good May jobs report, which showed the nation's unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 13.3 percent from 14.7 percent last month, buoyed hopes for a so-called V-shaped recovery.
But if the virus outbreak intensifies, forcing businesses to shut down again, economists have warned the consequences could be dire.
“I think a second wave would really undermine public confidence and might make for a significantly longer recovery and weaker recovery,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said at the end of May.