May 22, 2020 - Economy

Over 25 million Americans are collecting unemployment

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Before the coronavirus hit, 1.7 million jobless workers were collecting unemployment benefits, but two months later, the coronavirus pandemic has left more than 25 million workers on the unemployment rolls.

Why it matters: The number of new claims applications continues to be devastatingly high, though the pace has steadily slowed from the peak. Continued claims, which show the number of Americans on unemployment rolls after the initial application, keep climbing to new weekly records.

  • Even as states reopen their economies or businesses bring workers back, the tide of Americans continuing to receive benefits is stronger than those who may be falling off the rolls of unemployment and going back to work.

What they're saying: "We don't know how many people have fallen off unemployment because they got rehired," Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, tells Axios.

  • But continued claims show that "on net we're still seeing a deterioration" in the labor market, Shierholz says.
  • "When continued jobless claims peaks and start to fall, it's an important turning point for the economy," says Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. Economics at Bank of America.

Go deeper: The coronavirus unemployment numbers in perspective

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