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First Cut: New filings for unemployment benefits continue to decline as of May 30 week

The unadjusted level of new claims for unemployment benefits declined 314,604 to 1.603 million in the week ended May 30. The cumulative number of new claims filed since the March 21 week is at 38.824 million. Although the pace of new filings continues to abate, levels remain at extraordinary levels. While some businesses tried hard to retain their workforces even as the economic slump from the COVID-19 pandemic brought activity to a near standstill, the lengthening of stay-at-home orders and restrictions on public activity mean more layoffs were inevitable.

The Labor Department once more cited COVID-19 as the special factor driving the data. States that estimated claims in the week were Michigan and Pennsylvania. Seasonal adjustment factors for the May 30 data was at the tail-end of the period when anticipating layoffs associated with the end of the school year.

The unadjusted number of insured unemployment claims rose 437,072 in the week ended May 23. There was a mild dip in the level in the May 16 week as some workers were recalled as states and local authorities allowed some reopening of activity over the Memorial Day weekend. However, the influx of new claims meant that was short-lived. The unadjusted insured unemployment rate was up three-tenths to 13.2 in the May 23 week, just off historical peaks.

The number of new filings for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was down 671,975 to 623,073 in the week ended May 30. Under the CARES act, the PUA is intended to provide assistance to workers not covered under regular unemployment insurance. While fewer workers are filing, there remain large numbers receiving benefits.

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