The number of new unemployment claims in MA last week fell below 50,000 for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut down large swaths of the economy, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Employment and Training Administration. That's three and a half times the total benefits paid a year ago, state officials said Wednesday.
"What the continuing claims figures and the insured unemployment rate are more reliably telling us is that the unemployment rate was close to peaking at the start of May, as the number of people returning to their jobs nearly offset new job losers", said Capital Economics chief United States economist Paul Ashworth in a note to clients.
White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett said the latest data indicated the recent flood of claims was ebbing. Trump seized on the dismal numbers to call for easing lockdowns so people can get back to work.
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Initial jobless claims fell to just below three million in the week ending May 9, down slightly from 3.2 million.
State officials said last week that they expected total claim numbers to continue to rise in the state until Washington's economy was more fully reopened, but offered the hope that the worst of the layoffs might be over. OR will get another gauge Tuesday when the state releases the April unemployment number - which will surely land somewhere well north of 10%, as bad or worse than the toughest days of the Great Recession.
To put into context, the previous record for new weekly unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982. While the closures initially hit retailers, restaurants, and the hospitality industry, the shock has spread to other areas of the economy including health care and other professional services. Up through March, the USA economy had been working at almost full employment, with an unemployment rate of 4.4. Since the outbreak began, more than 36 million Americans have sought jobless benefits to weather the economic slowdown.