There are twice as many unemployment claims as unemployed people
Thursday's jobs report from the Labor Department showed the U.S. added nearly 5 million jobs in June, leaving 17.8 million people unemployed, but the Labor Department also reported that more than 31 million people were receiving unemployment benefits and an additional 6 million had applied as of June 27.
What happened: The CARES Act allowed for Americans who would not typically be eligible for unemployment assistance to qualify for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, including part-time workers and the self-employed.
- Over the past month, as municipalities around the nation have removed "stay at home" orders, the number of people receiving PUA has swelled, from 9.7 million on May 23 to 12.9 million — the opposite of what was expected.
- Additionally, at least 1 million Americans have filed jobless claims for 15 straight weeks.
- The number of people approved for and receiving traditional unemployment benefits declined by less than 1 million from May 16 to June 13, the last date for which data was available.
What it means: The decline in unemployment seems to largely be the result of classification rather than an improved jobs market — people who had been classified as unemployed are returning to work but those who are now losing their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic are often classified as "out of the labor force," not unemployed.
- "In June, there were 17.8 million workers who were officially unemployed, but there were an additional 2.0 million workers who were temporarily unemployed but who were being misclassified as 'employed not at work,'” Economic Policy Institute economists Heidi Shierholz and Elise Gould write.
- "And 5.0 million who were out of work as a result of the virus were being counted as having dropped out of the labor force. Altogether, that is 24.5 million workers who are either officially unemployed or otherwise out of work as a result of the virus."
- "If all these workers were taken into account, the unemployment rate would be a whopping 15.0%."