May 21, 2020 - Economy & Business

2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week

Data: U.S. Employment and Training Administration via FRED; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Another 2.43 million workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Department of Labor said on Thursday.

Why it matters: Americans are still filing jobless claims at historically high rates as the coronavirus crisis takes a record toll on the economy.

The big picture: The pace of weekly unemployment filings has slowed from the peak, but the number of newly filed claims continues to be devastatingly high.

  • For comparison, the record number of filings before the pandemic was set in 1982, when 695,000 people filed for unemployment.
  • New York state's Labor Department told reporters on Tuesday it has paid out 4.5 years worth of unemployment benefits in just over two months.

By the numbers: Continuing claims, which show the number of Americans collecting unemployment after their initial application, jumped by 2.5 million to another record 25 million — a sign unemployment is lingering even as states reopen.

  • Of note: This figure reports with a 2-week lag.

The backdrop: The federal stimulus bill passed in late March grants an additional $600 in benefits per week to jobless Americans. These more generous benefits are set to stop at the end of July.

  • The bill also created "pandemic unemployment assistance," which extends unemployment benefits to self-employed and gig workers.
  • The main jobless claims figure doesn't count people applying for this program. A separate part of the release shows 2.2 million people across 35 states applied for this program last week.
  • It also excludes jobless Americans whose applications weren't yet processed. Florida is among the states whose unemployment systems are still seeing delays, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

The bottom line: Economists warn job losses meant to be temporary could become permanent.

  • Businesses starting to reopen may not need the same number of workers as they did pre-pandemic — especially if they're operating at reduced capacity.
  • Plus, the coronavirus economic impact has rippled to other industries that weren't forced to close — including local newspapers and startups — as the country locked down and demand shriveled up.

Go deeper

The difficulty of calculating the real unemployment rate

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Note: Initial traditional state claims from the weeks of May 23 and 30, continuing traditional claims from May 23. Initial PUA claims from May 16, 23, and 30, continuing PUA and other programs from May 16; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The shocking May jobs report — with a decline in the unemployment rate to 13.3% and more than 2 million jobs added — destroyed expectations of a much worse economic picture.

Why it matters: Traditional economic reports have failed to keep up with the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and have made it nearly impossible for researchers to determine the state of the U.S. labor market or the economy.

Jun 4, 2020 - Health

HHS requests data on race and ethnicity with coronavirus test results

A nurse writes a note as a team of doctors and nurses performs a procedure on a coronavirus patient in the Regional Medical Center on May 21 in San Jose, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services moved on Thursday to require that an individual's race, ethnicity, age and sex be submitted to the agency with novel coronavirus test results.

Why it matters: Some cities and states have reported the virus is killing black people at disproportionately high rates. There are gaps in the national picture of how many people of color are affected, since the data has not been a requirement for states to collect or disclose.

Trump's week of viral quicksand

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Stories about President Trump's photo op at St. John's church after peaceful protesters were forcefully cleared from the area averaged the most online attention of any issue about the president this week.

Why it matters: Trump's force-over-compassion approach to the demonstrators protesting the murder of George Floyd had Republican allies backpedaling to keep a distance — and led to a wave of condemnations that got plenty of online traction on their own.