Initial Claims Level Again at 1.5 Million

American workers filed 1.5 million new applications for jobless benefits last weeks, the Labor Department reported Friday—the third consecutive week at that level, but still at historically high levels in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report said for the week ending June 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims fell slightly to 1.48 million, a decrease of 60,000 from the previous week. . The four-week moving average fell to 1.620 million, a decrease of 160,750 from the previous week. Since February, more than 47 million initial claims have been filed.

Labor said the advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate fell to 13.4 percent for the week ending June 13, a decrease of 0.5 percentage point from the previous week’s revised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (i.e., continuing claims) during the week ending June 13 was 19.52 million, a decrease of 767,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The four-week moving average fell to 20.42 million, a decrease of 329,750 from the previous week’s revised average.

The report said the total benefit claims for the week ending June 6 rose to 30.55 million, an increase of 1.29 million from the previous week. By comparison Labor reported 1.55 million persons claiming benefits in all programs a year ago.

Mark Vitner, Senior Economist with Wells Fargo Securities, Charlotte, said a continued rise in coronavirus cases could complicate states trying to reopen their economies.

Re-opening efforts will likely be hampered by the resurgence in cases, particularly in the South,” Vitner said. “COVID-19 concerns may keep customers away, making it difficult for firms to remain open.”

Doug Duncan, Chief Economist with Fannie Mae, Washington, D.C., said the report highlights that the labor market still faces a “significant degree of disruption “as a direct result of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. He noted continued claims continue to drop, but remain historically high.  

“While down from its all-time high of 25 million on May 9, the gradual decline in this figure indicates that the labor market is improving only incrementally, and the total extent of joblessness in the economy remains unprecedented,” Duncan said.