initial claims4

I propose a job for everyone, not a promise to see if jobs can be found. . .If our government cannot create jobs, it cannot govern.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

This morning, the U.S. Department of Labor (pdf) reported that, during the week ending last Saturday, another 3.17 million American workers filed initial claims for unemployment compensation. That’s on top of the 30.31 million workers who were laid off during the preceding six weeks.

Here is a breakdown of each week:

    • Week ending on 21 March—3.31 million
    • Week ending on 28 March—6.87 million
    • Week ending on 4 April—6.62 million
    • Week ending on 11 April—5.24 million
    • Week ending on 18 April—4.44 million
    • Week ending on 25 April—3.85 million
    • Week ending on 2 May—3.17 million

 

All told, close to 33.5 million American workers have filed initial unemployment claims during the past seven weeks.

To put that into some kind of perspective, I calculated the initial claims totals for two other relevant seven-week periods: the worst point of the Second Great Depression (encompassing the weeks ending on 21 and 28 February, 7, 14, 21, and 28 March, and 4 April 2009) and the weeks immediately preceding the current depression (so, 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29 February and 7 and 14 March 2020).

As readers can see in the chart above, the difference is stunning: 4.59 million workers filed initial claims during the worst seven-week period of 2009, 1.55 million from early February to mid-March of this year, and 33.48 million in the past seven 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—although Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia doesn’t know how many. 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 also don’t include the 7.1 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 more than 40 million.* That would mean an American unemployment rate of something on the order of 24.9 percent, which is virtually identical to the rate last seen in the first Great Depression (estimated to have been 25 percent) and two and half times the highest rate (10 percent) experienced during the Second Great Depression.**

 

*At the highest of levels of unemployment following the 2007-08 crash, there were 15.3 million jobless Americans.

**We should also remember that, on average (since 1994), the U6 unemployment rate (which includes so-called discouraged workers and those working part-time for economic reasons) is 1.8 times the official (U3) unemployment rate. Thus, for example, the U6 unemployment rate was 17.1 percent in October 2009, when the official rate was 10 percent. Right now, we don’t have a good measure of the number of workers who either haven’t been able to file for unemployment or whose hours have been cut, forcing them to work part-time. There is no doubt, however, that the number of currently unemployed or underemployed workers is much higher than 40 million.

Comments
  1. […] skyrocketed—to 14.7 percent according to the official rate and at least 24.9 percent according to my own calculations. The tens of millions of new layoffs from the pandemic shutdown have clearly swelled the ranks of […]

  2. […] skyrocketed—to 14.7 percent according to the official rate and at least 24.9 percent according to my own calculations. The tens of millions of new layoffs from the pandemic shutdown have clearly swelled the ranks of […]

  3. […] 14.7 percent according to the official rate and at least 24.9 percent according to my own calculations. The tens of millions of new layoffs from the pandemic shutdown have clearly swelled the ranks of […]

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