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First Cut: Initial jobless claims still pouring in at unprecedented levels, if at a slower pace

The unadjusted level of new filings for unemployment benefits fell 182,265 to 2.174 million in the week ended May 16. This brought the total number of new claims since the March 21 week to 35.296 million. If the number of filings has declined from the peak of 4.965 million in the week ended April 11, claims continue to pour in at an unprecedented rate.

I continue to cite the unadjusted data as a better reflection of conditions than those which are seasonally adjusted. The seasonal adjustment factors have nothing to do with the present crisis for the labor market.

The unadjusted number of workers applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was up 1.377 million in the week ended May 16 to 2.227 million. PUA is for those workers not covered under unemployment insurance programs.

The Labor Department once more cited that the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic are the story behind the numbers. Only one state – Michigan – estimated claims in the week.

As of the May 9 week, the unadjusted number of insured claims rose to 22.942 million with the unemployment rate at a new peak of 17.2%. The upward movement in the levels of people receiving unemployment insurance benefits has yet to crest and it is driving insured unemployment rate to new highs.

The number of workers continuing to receive PUA was up 2.719 million to 6.121 million in the May 2 week. The number of workers receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – for those workers who have exhausted other unemployment benefits – was up 83,189 to 162,727.

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