Politics & Money

Number of unemployed Americans falls below 20 million

Continuing claims total 19.5 million while new jobless claims fall to 1.48 million

Continuing claims, a tally of unemployed Americans, declined for the third straight week, falling to 19.5 million, while initial claims that track how many people apply for jobless benefits fell to 1.48 million, a government report showed on Thursday.

The data on the total number of unemployed people is for the week ended June 13 and the initial claims are for last week, according to the Labor Department data.

The labor market is improving as states continue to ease restrictions enacted in March when COVID-19 first started spreading in the U.S. It may point to an improvement in data showing the number of working Americans when this month’s unemployment data is published on July 2, said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thorton.

“Improvement in continuing jobless claims points to another jump in employment in June,” Swonk said on Twitter. “The hard reality is the ongoing surge in initial employment claims – some backlog still working its way through, which is terribly sad. Also some new layoffs.”

Whether the economic reopening can continue at its current pace is at risk as COVID-19 cases surge in the U.S. There were 38,115 new infections reported by state health departments on Wednesday, surpassing the previous single-day record of 34,203 set on April 25. The three largest U.S. states – California, Texas and Florida – all set new highs for infections this week.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday his state is facing a “massive outbreak” of COVID-19 and that greater restrictions may be necessary.

Economists have warned about a W-shaped recovery that could happen if states ease COVID-19 restrictions too quickly, re-igniting the pandemic, rather than pursue a gradual reopening with restrictions such as the use of face masks in public.

One of the most puzzling aspects of COVID-19, the one thing that’s made it most difficult to corral and, thus harder to predict its economic fallout, is asymptomatic transmission.

People who don’t show symptoms can be spreading the disease as they go to work, shop in stores, or pump gas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When all the 4,800 sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt were tested in April for the disease, about 60% of the ones who tested positive for COVID-19 showed no signs of illness, according to the Navy.

Other investigations put the rate much lower, such as one based on the outbreak aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship that found the asymptomatic rate was about 18%  – almost one in five people.

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