In the week ending April 18, 4.43 million U.S. workers applied for unemployment benefits, bringing the five-week total to 26.5 million people who have filed jobless claims during the worst labor market downturn since the Great Depression.
That’s one-sixth of the U.S. labor force’s 165 million people, now out of a job.
The 26.5 million lost jobs far exceed the 22.442 million jobs added to payrolls since November 2009, when the U.S. economy began adding jobs after the Great Recession.
It took just five weeks for the U.S. economy to wipe out all the job gains made over the last 11 years.
Week 5 jobless claims were down from 5.24 million in week 4, and the decline may be a sign that layoffs are slowing, Bloomberg reported.
The latest figures, released Thursday by the Labor Department, suggest a jobless rate of about 20 percent — double the 10-percent peak reached in the Great Recession in 2009.
The apparent slowdown could just mean people are finally getting through to jammed phone lines and websites to apply for benefits after weeks of trying.
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Individual states showed sharp week 5 increases in unadjusted claims including Florida, which more than doubled from the previous week to an estimated 505,000. Connecticut and West Virginia also posted big increases.
U.S. stocks rose after the Thursday jobless claims report, while 10-year Treasury yields were mostly unchanged.
Although the claim numbers are going down, “the flood of claims will likely continue,” analysts Eliza Winger and Carl Riccadonna told Bloomberg. The latest claim numbers represent the third consecutive weekly drop from a peak of nearly 6.9 million at the end of March.
California reported the most initial claims for week ending April 18 — 533,600, down from 655,500 the week before. Florida was next, followed by Texas at 280,400, up slightly from the previous week. Georgia and New York also reported more than 200,000 filings, though both down from the previous week.
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“We’re still talking about workers filing for unemployment benefits in the millions — so it isn’t ‘good news’ per se,” wrote Ian Lyngen, head of rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets, according to CNBC.
However, there’s some optimism that the rate of jobless claims may slow down as some states start to back off of stay-at-home orders and start opening up for business
“As the economy begins to reopen in May, whether the local shop or the factories that are lining up to do so in coming weeks, we’re likely seeing the peak in claims as people get back to work,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, in an email to CNBC.