US jobless claims extend to 38.6 million
A further 2.4 million Americans registered for unemployment benefits last week
A further 2.4 million Americans registered for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total number of first-time applications since the start of the Covid-19 crisis in the nation to 38.6 million.
The latest figures released by the Department of Labour reveal the seventh consecutive week in which the rate of weekly losses declined. The numbers will be of little solace however, both to those unemployed Americans and to the country’s leadership. Unemployment is now at 14.7 per cent, a level not seen since the peak of the Great Depression in 1933.
While the veracity of China’s figures is hotly debated, the United States is the nation worst-affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak, with over 1.5 million confirmed cases and almost 94,000 deaths attributed to the pandemic.
Although jobless claims statistics are closely monitored, they are not thought to offer the most accurate insight into the real state of the US job market, as not every person who is made redundant immediately applies for benefits.
While the number of claimants is not expected to surge throughout the rest of May and June, the figures are not yet anticipated to drop below 7 digits. State bureaucracies continue to be overworked and significant backlogs are still being reported in a number of American states.
Different states have also been affected to different degrees by the virus itself. In light of this disparity the pressure has mounted in recent weeks for the easing of lockdowns in certain areas. The likes of Maine, Idaho, Utah, Vermont and North Dakota combined have seen fewer than 500 coronavirus deaths.
However, when and how to reopen remains a political minefield. Earlier this week Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was asked by Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown: “How many workers should give their lives to increase our [GDP] by half a percent?”
Mnuchin described the senator’s “characterization” as “unfair” and later observed: “I think the jobs numbers will be worse before they get better.”
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