Another 2.8 million people filed jobless claims last week, bringing the total number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to 36.5 million.
Connecticut had the highest number of applicants, at 298,680 on an unadjusted basis, the Labor Department report said on Thursday. Georgia was next, followed by California and New York.
While the total number of jobless claims was 10 times the average in the weeks prior to COVID-19 hitting the nation, it was the sixth decline since the all-time high of nearly 7 million at the end of March. That’s when states first began issuing stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of COVID-19 and avoid overwhelming hospital ICUs.
“As the economic data continue to come out, it has become increasingly clear that the global economy decelerated sharply in March and came to a screeching halt in April,” Wells Fargo economists wrote in a report on Wednesday.
Recovery depends on containing the virus as states begin reopening, the economists wrote.
“If widespread outbreaks and lockdowns can be avoided, the April/May period should mark the low point of the year,” the report said. “But if the virus reemerges with a vengeance, the economic recovery will be seriously threatened, and perhaps this time more permanently.”
On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced a $3 trillion relief bill, named the Heroes Act, with support for mortgage holders, renters, and state governments.
It also would extend the current July cut-off date for the enhanced unemployment benefits that add $600 to the weekly payments states make to jobless residents. The aim is to fully replace salaries so people can stay current on their bills.
The unprecedented number of jobless claims since the beginning of the pandemic is one reason additional help from Congress is needed to support the economy, Federal Reserve Chairman William Powell said in a speech on Wednesday.
“Additional fiscal support could be costly but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery,” said Powell, a lifelong Republican who in normal times is known as a deficit hawk. “This tradeoff is one for our elected representatives, who wield powers of taxation and spending.”