Economists forecast that an additional 1.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week

Business Insider
By Carmen Reinicke

  • The median economist estimate for jobless claims in the week ending June 6 is 1.55 million, according to Bloomberg data. The Labor Department will release the official report Thursday. 
  • If the official report is near the estimate, it will mark the second week in a row where initial claims are less than 2 million since the coronavirus pandemic began. 
  • Still, 1.55 million weekly claims is roughly double the worst seven-day period during the Great Recession, where 665,000 filed for unemployment insurance. 

Economists expect that Thursday’s jobless claims report form the Labor Department will show yet another week of millions of unemployment insurance applications, even as the US economy reopens. 

The median economist estimate for claims in the week ending June 6 is 1.55 million, according to Bloomberg data. In the previous week, 1.9 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance, bringing the 11-week total to nearly 43 million. 

If the Thursday report is in line with estimates, it will be the second week in a row where claims are less than 2 million since the coronavirus pandemic led to a spike of layoffs in mid-March. 

initial claims projections 6 6 v2

“The downward trend is obviously good news, but in the context of an economy that is re-opening it is extremely high, especially when viewed against previous recessions,” James Knightley, chief international economist at ING, wrote in a Thursday note. 

Claims remain highly elevated even as the US economy charges ahead with reopening — at the end of May, all 50 states had begun the process of relaxing coronavirus-lockdown restrictions. Even 1.55 million claims in one week is roughly twice the 665,000 Americans that filed for unemployment insurance during the worst seven-day stretch of the great recession.

Last week’s report also showed that continuing claims — representing the aggregate total of people receiving unemployment benefits— ticked up slightly. 

While still one of the best real-time indicators of the labor market in the US amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic reopening, jobless claims tell only half the picture. The May jobs report did show some green shoots in the labor market — the US added 2.5 million jobs during the month, and the unemployment rate declined to 13.3%. That was not only an improvement from April, but bucked what economists expected from the monthly report

Still, it will take time for the US economy to recover all the jobs lost due to sweeping lockdowns to control the disease. In April, job openings fell to the lowest since 2014, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

There are currently 4.6 unemployed workers for every job opening, a stark shift from just a few months ago, when open jobs outnumbered those looking for work. 

Source: Business Insider (2020)

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