The ranks of jobless Americans continued to surge, with about 5.2 million filing for unemployment benefits in the second week of April. More than 22 million workers have filed for the benefit in the past five weeks as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered much of the U.S. economy.
Still, the number of people filing for unemployment in the week ended April 11 is a decline of 1.37 million from the previous week, the U.S. Department of Labor said on Thursday. Unemployment claims, reported weekly, are a barometer for the job market because they indicate how many workers have lost their jobs amid the pandemic.
In just five weeks, the economy has lost far more jobs than the 18.3 million positions created during the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. With the latest jobless claims, roughly 1 in 7 workers is now jobless, an "unfathomable" number, according to The Century Foundation's Andrew Stettner, an expert on unemployment.
"All of the job gains from the decade-long recovery following the Great Recession have been erased," said Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao.
State unemployment offices are still catching up on the backlog of worker claims, with Stettner estimating that about "60 percent of the surge in claims through April 3 are now counted as insured unemployment, meaning that those claims are being processed and workers on their way to receiving a payment."
The layoffs, which started in service-sector jobs that were dependent on tourism and travel, are now reaching into other sectors of the economy, according to Morgan Stanley analysts.
"Layoffs are also, now to a greater extent, affecting industries that should be relatively adaptable to work-from-home arrangements," they wrote in a research note.
Economists are predicting that jobless numbers will continue to rise. Oxford Economics has said it expects as many as 30 million U.S. job losses stemming from the virus — that would be three times the number of jobs that disappeared after the housing crash.
The jobless numbers may not accurately reflect the number of Americans who have lost income or jobs, with Stettner noting that the tally doesn't include unemployed gig workers or self-employed people. While they have been included in the stimulus bills' expanded unemployment benefits, many "can't even apply for help yet as states are still delayed in setting up the required applications," he noted.
States with the biggest increases in claims for the week ended April 4 include Georgia, which witnessed an increase of 256,000 jobless claims, and Michigan, with an increase of about 84,000 claims, the labor department said.
Lost jobs in Georgia included the hotel and food industries, but also impacted fields such as manufacturing and health care and social assistance. Michigan's job losses were also in the hotel and food industries, as well as retail and administrative jobs.