Chart of the day

Posted: 16 April 2020 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,


This morning, the U.S. Department of Labor (pdf) reported that, during the week ending last Saturday, another 5.25 million American workers filed initial claims for unemployment compensation. That’s on top of 6.61 million worker who were laid off during the week ending 4 April, 6.65 million workers who were laid off during the week ending 28 March, and another 3.31 million in the previous week.

All told, more than 22 million American workers have filed initial claims during the past four weeks.

To put that into some kind of perspective, I calculated the initial claims totals for two other relevant 4-week periods: the worst point of the Second Great Depression (encompassing the weeks ending on 7, 14, 21, and 28 March 2009) and the weeks immediately preceding the current one (so, 22 and 29 February and 7 and 14 March 2020).

As readers can see in the chart above, the difference is stunning: 2.04 million workers filed initial claims during the worst 4-week period of 2009, 930 thousand from mid-February to mid-March of this year, and more than 22 million in the past four weeks.

Once again, keep in mind, the most recent numbers still don’t include perhaps millions of other American workers, since many states are still addressing backlogs of claims. Masses of workers have been unsuccessful in applying for unemployment insurance because state websites are freezing and their phones are inundated with inquiries.

Moreover, because they’re only initial claims, the numbers of initial claims also don’t include the 6-7 million American workers who were deemed officially unemployed in early March, before most of the shutdowns started.

Add them together, and the number of workers currently unemployed in the United States is now close to 30 million. That would mean an American unemployment rate of something on the order of 18 percent, which is getting very close to the level (estimated to have been 25 percent) last seen in the first Great Depression and almost double the highest rate (10 percent) experienced during the Second Great Depression.

  1. […] a nearly 20-percent contraction) but unemployment is already at an alarming level (18 percent, by my estimate) and will no doubt increase in the coming months.** Moreover, it’s quite possible that many […]

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