The latest figures from the Department of Labor mean close to 39 million Americans have lost their jobs in just nine weeks. The rate of weekly losses has slowed sharply from its peak of 6.6m at the start of April but remains at levels unseen since the 1930s Great Depression.
This week the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said he expects unemployment to continue to rise as the pandemic takes its toll, but warned of “permanent damage” to the economy if the lockdowns are prolonged.
The weekly jobless claims are seen as a proxy for layoffs, but they do not necessarily give the most accurate picture of the unemployment situation. A claim is an application for unemployment benefits, and not every person who is laid off immediately applies for benefits.
The weekly unemployment claims are also still being affected by a backlog collapse of claims that overwhelmed many state systems.
The official unemployment rate is now 14.7%, the worst since records began. A decade’s worth of job gains have been wiped out, and most economists believe the real figure is higher and expect unemployment to rise to well above 20% in the coming months.
US unemployment rises by 2.4m despite easing of coronavirus lockdowns, TheGuardian, May 21