About 1.3 million workers filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week – the 17th straight week that new claims exceeded one million as the coronavirus pandemic continues to drag down the economy.
Nearly 17.4 million workers were continually claiming unemployment insurance for the week ending July 4, the Department of Labor said. And another 14.3 million people were claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program newly created for self-employed or gig workers who are out of work at the moment, bringing the total number of people on all programs to 32 million unemployed.
“What we’re seeing is continued, historic elevated rates of job loss in the United States,” said Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab. “We’ve seen sustained elevated rates of job loss, and that’s continued as we hurdle toward the expiration of several programs that have propped up the economy.”
The weekly filings decreased only slightly from the previous week, when 1.31 million workers filed for unemployment for the first time. They have steadily decreased from their high of 6.9 million filings for the week ending March 28, but the rate has slowed significantly in the last month.
Jobless claims are still nearly double the worst weeks in previous economic crises, including 665,000 during the Great Recession and 695,000, the previous record, from 1982.
The numbers come as Congress debates whether to extend additional federal jobless benefits, currently $600 a week, that have helped many struggling workers stay afloat. That program is set to expire at the end of July.
And the virus’ surge around the country has touched off a new round of closures that have dashed any remaining hopes of a quick economic recovery.
There are signs that job losses are touching deeper into the economy as well. American Airlines warned that 25,000 employees – about 29% of its staff – could be furloughed in the fall. General Motors said it would furlough about a third of its workers, 1,250 people, from its Wentzville Assembly plant in Ohio.
Retailers have announced layoffs this week as well, including J.C. Penney, which said it would layoff an expected 1,000 people, and REI, which said it would lay off 400 people. Casinos across the country have announced layoffs of thousands of workers.
And higher-education and local governments – bastions of typically stable, middle-class jobs – appear to have begun to feel the hit that many have been warning about, with many reporting budget shortfalls.
Colleges and universities in states like New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Arizona, have begun announcing potential layoffs, furloughs and potential pay cuts as states begin paring down their budgets to match plunging tax revenue. Other institutions that rely on public funding appear to be pulling back as well, like libraries, historical societies, and public school systems.
Bunker’s research, using data from the Census Bureau, has found that the types of jobs being lost behind the unemployment figures are increasingly permanent, not just temporary layoffs from positions that were expected to bounce back.
In April, 5.5% of people who were unemployed reported permanent job losses. By June, that figure increased to 20%. In April, the top five jobs with the worst losses were those most directly impacted by the virus and shutdowns: housekeepers and cleaners, waiters, retail workers, and cashiers, he found.
But by June, those jobs had shifted to other occupations, pointing to broader economic damage: carpenters, paralegals, managers, financial analysts, and customer sales representatives.
“This is in some sense the labor market version of not seeing coronavirus case going down,” he said. “At this point you’d hope to see additions to unemployment rolls tick down as we got layoffs under control. But what we’ve seen as it stall out, is that it’s likely the kinds of layoffs have shifted and that they’re more permanent, more enduring and more spread out through the economy.”
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Eli Rosenberg ·