Another 3.17 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week, bringing the seven-week total of jobless claims during the COVID-19 pandemic to 33.5 million, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
While last week’s number is almost five times the worst week of the financial crisis, it does mark the fifth consecutive decline after claims hit an all-time high of 6.87 million in the last week of March.
The focus now shifts to Friday’s labor report that crunches the weekly data into an unemployment rate for the month of April. Economists expect the rate to be about 16%, surpassing the all-time high of 10.8% set in December of 1982, according to the average estimate in a poll by Trading Economics.
“As industries grind to a halt and businesses are forced to temporarily close their doors, we expect the labor market to shed millions of jobs in the second quarter,” Wells Fargo economists said in a report on Thursday. “As a result, the unemployment rate will skyrocket.”
Most people, however, don’t expect to be out of work for long, according to the Wells Fargo report. The pandemic hit an economy that was firing on all cylinders, as seen in February’s 3.5% unemployment rate, a six-decade low.
“Consumers view the current lockdown situation as temporary,” the report said. “Expectations of the labor market improved, driven by the likelihood that shelter-in-place measures will be loosened along with a re-opening of the economy.”
California, Texas and Georgia reported the highest levels of unadjusted jobless claims last week, though all of those were lower than the prior week. The only U.S. states that posted increases were Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey and New Mexico.
States that began reopening their economies saw the biggest reduction in jobless claims. Florida was No. 1, with a drop of almost 260,000 from the prior week, according to the Labor Department report.