In May, the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 13.3 percent from 14.7 percent, signaling the labor market had started a tepid recovery from the virus outbreak.
About 1.5 million people filed for state unemployment benefits last week, the Department of Labor announced Thursday, bringing the 13-week total for first-time claims to more than 45 million. New weekly filings peaked at almost 6.9 million in March and have been dropping ever since.
By Shierholz's calculations (see the chart below for a summary), about 34.5 million people are either receiving benefits - including 9.3 million in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program - or are in process within the system.
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Still, analysts had expected a sharper decline in weekly applications, and some expressed disappointment that so many people are still seeking unemployment benefits even as restaurants, gyms and many categories of retail shops are reopening across the country.
"Preliminary May estimates released today show Kansas gained back 17 percent of the jobs lost in March and April due to efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19", Senior Labor Economist, Tyler Tenbrink said.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, but the pace of decline has stalled amid a second wave of layoffs as companies battle weak demand and fractured supply chains, supporting views that the economy faces a long and hard recovery from the COVID-19 recession. "It's gut-wrenching to hear from people whose claim is not resolved, who can no longer make ends meet".
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Aron also announced that AMC will sell masks for a $1 at the door for customers who forgot to bring one. Donald Trump even said that he believes that people wear masks to "signal disapproval of him".
These figures aren't adjusted for seasonal variations, so the government doesn't include them in the official count. That means that "more than one in five workers are either on unemployment benefits or are waiting to get on", Shierholz said.
Many economists caution, though, that the economy will likely struggle to sustain its recent gains.
The dwindling rate of jobless claims suggests that the devastation inflicted on the job market and the economy has bottomed out. Business reopenings have caused spikes of viral infections in almost half of states, a trend that could lead consumers to pull back again on shopping and dining out and reverse any economic gains. Many consumers won't fully resume their previous habits of shopping, travelling and going out until a vaccine is available.
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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says there will be millions of people who won't return to their jobs.