May 29, 2020 - Economy & Business

An estimated 34 million Americans are receiving jobless benefits

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits was 2.1 million last week, the lowest number since the coronavirus crisis began, but still three times higher than the peak during the global financial crisis.

Yes, but: The number of continuing jobless claims fell by 3.86 million on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week of May 9–May 16, suggesting many Americans are going back to work.

What they're saying: "The jobless claims 'curves' are bending," Ellis Phifer, managing director of fixed income research at Raymond James, says in a note to clients. "I’d say that’s pretty encouraging."

But, but, but: "To get a more complete picture, we need to take into account the number of people claiming benefits under the CARES Act," Phifer notes.

  • In 33 states, 7.8 million people are receiving benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and about 222,000 have claims for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program in 22 states.

What it means: Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, notes that 19.1 million workers were on continued claims as of May 16, and 4.1 million more have filed initial state unemployment claims since then.

  • Add those to the PUA numbers for initial and continued claims and it equals a total of "34.2 million workers who are either on unemployment benefits, or have applied very recently and are waiting to get approved," she says on Twitter.
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