Another 1.9 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week, the Department of Labor said Thursday.
The coronavirus pandemic has pushed unemployment in the U.S. to its highest rate since the Great Depression. Approximately 42 million U.S. workers have filed jobless claims since mid-March.
New jobless claims have leveled off slightly after peaking at nearly 7 million in the last week of March. This is the first time in 10 weeks that new claims have dropped below 2 million.
Still, for the past 11 weeks, the number of people who have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance have been in the millions.
"Even as states reopen, claims in the millions are an indicator that the economic pain of the COVID-19 crisis is still acute," Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao said in a commentary Thursday morning.
The initial unemployment claims data comes as economists are bracing for a May jobs report that will be released on Friday and is expected to show the further devastation of the pandemic on the U.S. labor market.
"The steady drumbeat of UI claims in May is likely enough to push the unemployment rate in Friday’s jobs report into the high teens, if not over 20 percent," Zhao said. "But there is growing disagreement among economists about whether May will represent the worst of the crisis for the job market."
"While UI claims have acted as a useful real-time indicator thus far, we may soon enter a phase where UI claims understate the health of the labor market as claims remain elevated but hiring picks up," he added.
Meanwhile, as the coronavirus-induced unemployment crisis wages on, protests over the killing of George Floyd have erupted throughout the U.S. Some economists say the economic inequality may have fueled some of the social unrest.
"The worst social unrest in the U.S. in decades was not exclusively ignited by economic inequality, but it provided fuel for the fire," Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst for Bankrate, said in a statement Thursday.
He went on, "As the COVID-19 economic crisis has mushroomed, blacks, hispanics, women and teenagers have been hit with the highest rates of unemployment."