More than 4.4 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment in the week ending April 18, bringing the total over the last five weeks to a staggering 26.5 million, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.
The figure, which factors in seasonal adjustments, was down 810,000 from the previous week, but still means that about 16.2 percent of the U.S. labor force is either without a job or struggling with reduced hours, according to CNN.
It also means that job losses have surpassed all job gains since the Great Recession, CNBC reported.
Though the numbers for the week are slightly higher than expected — economists had reportedly predicted 4.3 million new claims — the numbers have at least started ticking downwards.
“We’re likely seeking the peak in claims as people get back to work,” Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, told CNBC. “Again, the pace at which they will is the question.”
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It’s the fifth week in a row that the record-high numbers have climbed in light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down much of the economy and led to layoffs and furloughs across multiple industries.
In early March of this year, the figures sat in the low 200,000s.
The number of claims seen over the last few weeks are higher than the U.S. has ever seen; previously, the highest week for claims was 695,000 in 1982, according to CNBC. The high for the Great Recession was just 665,000, in March 2009.
States have been struggling to keep up with the unprecedented figures; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that his state has 1,000 people taking unemployment calls, and that they’re still unable to stay on top of everything, CNN reported.
Still, New York fared better than Florida when it came to processing claims, according to an Associated Press report.
The AP reported that New York had about 30 percent of claims still waiting to be processed, while “nearly seven of every eight Floridians who managed to file claims during the three weeks from mid-March until early April” were still waiting. The AP said the Sunshine State had the country’s worst processing rate.
As of Thursday morning, there were at least 834,340 cases and 42,501 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times.
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