Labourers wait in a parking lot for day jobs in Arlington, Virginia. Picture: AFP/ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS
Labourers wait in a parking lot for day jobs in Arlington, Virginia. Picture: AFP/ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

Washington — Another 1.48-million Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, the US labour department said on Thursday, a worse-than-expected figure that showed the continuing potency of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new claims were a decrease of only 60,000 from the week prior and brought the total since the business shutdowns began in mid-March to more than 47.2-million.

Adding to the toll was the 728,120 people applying for benefits last week under a special programme for people not normally eligible, while the insured unemployment rate of people actually receiving benefits dropped half a point to 13.4% in the week ended June 13.

Jobless claims peaked in mid-March after skyrocketing due to the business shutdowns, and they’ve remained well above any levels seen during the global financial crisis since then.

The four-week moving average on claims has fallen from 1.78-million to 1.62-million, which Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics said is a positive sign even as data shows businesses may be struggling as states try to restart activity amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

“Filings remain elevated, perhaps reflecting companies’ inability to maintain their workforce under new and more restrictive rules of operation,” Farooqi said. “The decline in continuing claims for a third straight week is encouraging and continues to signal hiring and rehiring.”

Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics, writing in an analysis, said the renewed surge in cases in the US, where more than 35,900 cases were reported in 24 hours on Wednesday, could send claims upwards again.

“The danger now is that claims rebound in other states where infections are rising rapidly, and people are starting again to stay away from restaurants and malls.” 

AFP