The number of initial unemployment claims in the US reached 3.8 million last week as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the nation, raising the total to above 30 million, the Labour Department said.
Claims declined from 4.42 million the previous week, while the four-week rolling average of new applications slipped from 5.79 million to 5.03 million, reports Efe news.
The last week of March saw 6.9 million claims filed.
“The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 12.4 percent for the week ending April 18,” the Labor Department said on Thursday.
“This marks the highest level of the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate in the history of the seasonally adjusted series.”
The insured unemployment figure tracks people who have already filed an initial claim and experienced at least one week of unemployment before filing a continued claim.
The number of people receiving benefits, 17.99 million, likewise set a new record.
As bad as the figures on unemployment claims were, the reality was even worse, as the data does not include self-employed people idled by the various lockdowns aimed at containing a disease that has already claimed nearly 61,000 lives in the US.
And according to a study released this week by the Economic Policy Institute, for every 10 people who successfully filed for jobless benefits, three or four other laid-off workers were unable to navigate the system and another two people found the process so daunting that they didn’t try to file claims.
“These findings imply the official count of unemployment insurance claims likely drastically understates the extent of employment reductions and the need for economic relief during the coronavirus crisis,” the Washington-based think tank said.
The US headline unemployment rate climbed to 4.4 percent in March, its highest level since 2017, and 701,000 positions were eliminated, the Labor Department said on April 3 in the first monthly jobs report to reflect the impact of the pandemic on the world’s largest economy.
It was the first negative jobs figure after 113 consecutive months of gains.
The last time the US saw job losses on this scale was during the Great Recession in 2009. (IANS)