Meltdown continues: 3.17 million jobless claims filed last week

The destruction of the job market continued at only a slightly slower pace last week, according to the data from the Labor Department. New jobless claims cam in just slightly under 3.17 million, which at least represented a drop of more than two-thirds of a million from the previous week. However, this puts the overall initial jobless claims total in the COVID-19 pandemic at well over 33 million in just six weeks:

In the week ending May 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 3,169,000, a decrease of 677,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 7,000 from 3,839,000 to 3,846,000. The 4-week moving average was 4,173,500, a decrease of 861,500 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 1,750 from 5,033,250 to 5,035,000.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 15.5 percent for the week ending April 25, an increase of 3.1 percentage points from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 25 was 22,647,000, an increase of 4,636,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up 19,000 from 17,992,000 to 18,011,000. The 4-week moving average was 17,097,750, an increase of 3,800,250 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 5,000 from 13,292,500 to 13,297,500.

That slightly exceeded the guesstimates from economists, Fox Business notes, but the bigger issue is continuing claims. Economists expected that to hit 19.5 million, but instead it came in at 22.6 million and change:

Our friend Steve Eggleston of No Runny Eggs points out some important details within the report as well:

The numbers show that around 3.7 million more claims continued from the previous week, meaning that people aren’t finding other work. Two-thirds of these jobless claims over the past six weeks are staying on public assistance, and that might be a low estimate as overwhelmed systems are catching up on data reporting.

The Wall Street Journal sees light at the end of the tunnelmaybe:

Applications filed for the week ended May 2, were the fewest since the March 14 week, before the pandemic caused claims to spike, according to Thursday’s report. There were 3.8 million claims filed in the April 25 week. Claims in recent weeks have been about half the peak of 6.9 million touched in late March.

The recent jobless claims figures suggest the wave of unemployment caused by the pandemic could crest as soon as this month. Still, the layoffs that already occurred are likely to cause the April unemployment rate, due out Friday, to jump to a high on records back to 1948 from a 50-year low as recently as February.

“The decline has been sharp, which raises the possibility that we reached the bottom quickly,” Michael Moran, an economist at Daiwa Capital Markets, said. He said he expects the peak of unemployment triggered by the pandemic to occur in April or May, noting that most nonessential businesses have already closed and there are signs the virus’s spread is easing in some areas. “Parts of the economy are already starting to reopen,” he said.

The problem with reopening is that it will be gradual, and it won’t touch some of the most vulnerable businesses for several weeks. It’s the small service businesses — personally owned restaurants, hair and nail salons, and such — that likely had the least cash reserves and the least access to rescue capital. Even when we’re ready to reopen for retail business, capacity caps will keep those businesses from being profitable. Some of those business and all of their jobs won’t come back, ever.

Still, we can hope that we’ve bottommed out. Tomorrow’s jobs report will likely show 16% or higher unemployment, but those expectations have long been set. The jobs report that will matter will come in four weeks. Just how fast and strong can we rebound — if in fact we have hit bottom?