The Labor Department announced on Thursday that 1.5 million Americans filed new unemployment claims last week, the tenth straight week of declining jobless numbers since the economy was forced to shutter due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thursday’s numbers were lower than most estimates had predicted, falling by 355,000 from the previous week’s total of 1.9 million. Continuing jobless claims also declined by 339,000 to 20.9 million, well below the peak of 24.9 million during the week of May 9. More than 44 million people have filed for initial unemployment benefits since mid March.
States that saw the biggest decline in unemployment claims included Florida, where claims dropped by 97,187 from the previous week; Texas, which saw its number fall by 16,941; and Georgia, where claims decreased by 14,452. All three states have already commenced reopening their economies, despite fears that doing so would result in a rise in coronavirus cases. Texas has seen a 36 percent increase in new cases since Memorial Day, with coronavirus hospitalizations at a record high of 2,056 as of Tuesday.
California, meanwhile, saw jobless claims jump by 29,426, and Massachusetts saw an increase of 17,102. The statistics also showed that nearly 706,000 people requested benefits under the new temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which allows those who are ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits to receive assistance.
The U.S. economy shocked economists by added 2.5 million jobs in May, lowering the unemployment rate, after many predicted that unemployment could reach 20 percent or higher. It remains unclear whether the federal government will pass additional economic relief. While the House has already passed a $3.5 trillion bill called the Heroes Act — which would extend the $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit created under the Senate’s CARES Act from July 31 to January 31 — Republicans have expressed skepticism that another package is necessary.