US unemployment two-month total hits 36 million, New Hampshire layoffs reach 182,000

By Dan McCaleb and Dave Lemery | The Center Square

New jobless claims continued their COVID-19 surge last week, driving the total number of those filing for unemployment benefits to more than 36 million over the past two months.

Even as many states across the country began easing restrictions and slowly reopening their economies, 2.98 million Americans filed for new unemployment benefits for the week ending May 9, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

That’s down 195,000 from the 3.17 million Americans who filed claims for the week ending May 2, but still well above the numbers seen before the coronavirus outbreak led to stay-at-home orders that closed businesses deemed nonessential.

Wikimedia Commons/Florian

Restaurants are among the hardest hit sectors of the economy due to stay-at-home orders and nonessential business shutdowns.

Connecticut led all states with 298,680 new unemployment claims filed last week. Georgia saw 241,387 new claims, and California, 214,028.

Michael Lucci, president and publisher of 50economy.org, last week placed the real-time unemployment rate in the U.S. at 23.8 percent through April 25.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the American economy on its head, leaving nearly 1 in 4 American workers unemployed,” Lucci wrote. “In only two months, the U.S. economy transformed from full employment to extreme joblessness that Americans have not lived through since the Great Depression.”

Still, some workers are returning to their jobs. Since the calendar turned to May, several states began limited reopenings of certain business sectors. Even states that haven’t loosened restrictions yet are putting together plans for reopening that could begin to roll out this month or next.

New rush of jobless claims pushes New Hampshire’s total during pandemic past 182,000

New Hampshire recorded 9,491 new weekly jobless claims, its lowest total since filings first spiked in March but still about 15 times more than what the state saw before the coronavirus outbreak began. More than 182,000 New Hampshire residents have filed for unemployment over the past eight weeks.

The latest numbers, released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor, reflect new claims for the week ending May 9. For New Hampshire, they show a 24 percent decrease from the prior week.

Given that some states have begun to reopen economic activity this month, not everyone who has filed for unemployment benefits during the outbreak remains out of work. Still, the jobless rate spiked to 15.7 percent, and banking firm Goldman Sachs is projecting that it will hit 25 percent before beginning to return to normalcy.

In February, before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and began to roil the economy, the national unemployment rate was just 3.5 percent. New Hampshire had just 642 unemployment claims the week ending March 14; it hasn’t dipped below 9,400 since then.

In the May 9 numbers, Connecticut led all states with 298,680 new claims for unemployment after a computer error was fixed that had prevented claims from self-employed residents, leading to a 726 percent spike in new claims. Federal legislation enacted to respond to the near-total shutdown of most states’ economies made many people eligible for benefits who otherwise wouldn’t be, including the self-employed individuals, independent contractors and “gig economy” workers, like drivers for ride-sharing companies.

Oklahoma had the biggest drop in claims, with a 65 percent decline from the prior week.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Wikimedia Commons/Florian
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