Weekly Jobless Claims Grind Lower but Backlogs, Layoffs Linger

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
  Troy R. Bennett | BDN  A confident sign makes a statement at Don's Sports Cards on Brighton Avenue in Portland on April 9

Troy R. Bennett | BDN Troy R. Bennett | BDN A confident sign makes a statement at Don's Sports Cards on Brighton Avenue in Portland on April 9

Of that number, 4,640 Mainers filed for unemployment and additional 7,043 initial claims were filed for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

The number of initial unemplyment claims in the USA totalled to 2.4 million last week as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the nation, the Labor Department reported.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 2.44 million Americans filed for first-time benefits in the week that ended May 16, bringing the total to some 38.6 million workers in the nine weeks since the coronavirus-induced lockdown has closed large parts of the USA economy.

The applications from last week were the lowest since late March and continued an overall downward trend as parts of Alabama's economy reopen. The number of Tennesseans filing continuing claims also fell slightly last week, suggesting at least some employees are returning to work.

Claims have declined for seven straight weeks after peaking at 6.9 million in the final week of March but unemployment has soared to the highest level since World War II.

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While it's not uncommon for claims to be revised, nor will the latest complications alter the bleak and sudden deterioration in the labor market, the errors come at a time when economists and policymakers are attempting to get the best-possible handle on the pandemic's damage to the economy and the pace of recovery. The number of Kentuckians seeking unemployment assistance approached 800,000 in the past nine weeks as the virus caused businesses to shut down.

In Ohio, more than 46,000 initital unemployment claims were filed last week.

Both states on Thursday released figures on initial filings for unemployment benefits.

Claims dropped by 2 million between the April and May survey weeks. The number of residents filing initial unemployment claims has fallen steadily since early April. They can also gauge companies' ability to get people off unemployment or keep workers on payrolls as they access their share of a historic fiscal package worth almost $3 trillion, which offered loans that could be partially forgiven if they were used for employee salaries. On an non-seasonally adjusted basis, initial claims eased to 2.17 million last week from 2.36 million. However, Governor Bill Lee said Thursday during his weekly update there were still 22,000 claims that continue to remain pending.

Errors and differing state reporting methods aside, some economists are looking to the raw numbers for a more accurate read on applications amid challenges with the federal agency's seasonal adjustment process.

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