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U.S. Unemployment ‘Churned’ after Mid-April but Still 50 Million

May 18, 2020 (EIRNS)—The May 14 Labor Department report on new and continuing unemployment claims indicate a return to work by a small portion of the laid-off. New claims were 2.981 million, bringing the eight-week “corona period” total to 36.5 million. “Continuing claims”—meaning the number of people remaining on unemployment benefits as of two weeks earlier, April 30—were 22.9 million; adding that to the two weeks’ new claims through May 14 (3.36 million + 2.981 million) gives about 29.2 million people on benefits now.

This implies that 7 million Americans have been able to go back to work, or find some other way of working, or been disqualified for some other reason, since the beginning of March. In fact, 5.2 million people became “new hires” in the period, according to the Labor Department’s report called JOLTS (job openings and labor turnover survey), which also showed the larger number of 6.9 million became “separations” (lost their jobs) in that same period.

In any case, the 29.2 million on benefits are by far not all of the unemployed and underemployed.

Only 31 states now claim to be “caught up” with all backlogged applications for unemployment benefits, and there are still obviously several million people who have been unable to apply successfully, or have been told, or believe, that they are ineligible for unemployment benefits from their “gig(s).” And at last count, in the third week of April, 11.5 million Americans were already on forced part-time work; another 1.6 million were “discouraged” and not seeking work; and another 5 million were far out of the labor force, not having sought a job for more than a year.

The real number of unemployed/underemployed Americans stayed, then, at just about 50 million through the middle of May, which is when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin started to express pessimism on the subject and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and his staff became seriously alarmed, as we report in this issue.ET

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