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More than 30M Americans Claiming Unemployment Benefits

An additional 2.12 million Americans filed for unemployment claims for the week ending on May 23, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

This represents a slight decline of 323,000 from the previous week, which was revised up by 8,000 claims to 2.44 million. 

While it is encouraging to see continued claims fall for the first time since the current crisis began, this number still represents close to 14% of the workforce,” said Doug Duncan, Chief Economist at Fannie Mae. “Continued claims represent the cumulative number of persons claiming unemployment insurance benefits at a point in time and is therefore a better, though still imperfect, measure of the total extent of joblessness present in the economy. As of May 9, states reported processing 8 million continued claims for benefits available from emergency compensation programs enacted as part of the CARES Act. 

“This 8 million figure is not already included in the regular continued claims number. These expanded programs provide benefits to persons normally ineligible for unemployment insurance or who have exhausted regular benefits.”

The Department of Labor reports the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 14.5% for the week of May 16—a decline of 2.6 percentage points from the prior week’s revised rate. The previous week's rate was revised down to 17.1% from 17.2%. 

A total of 30.9 million people were claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending May 9, which is an increase of 3.6 million from the prior week. Last year, 1.56 million Americans filed claims during the same week of 2019.

Washington led the nation with the highest insured unemployment rate of 31.2%. Nevada was a close second at 26.7%, which was followed by Flordia (25%); Hawaii (23.4%); Michigan (23.1%); California (20.6%); New York (19.9%); Rhode Island (18.8%); Vermont (18.2%); Connecticut (18%); and Georgia (18%). 

Duncan added, as in prior weeks, this report comes with a few caveats that make it difficult to interpret. 

On one hand, unemployment insurance eligibility rules have been relaxed recently, increasing the number of people who are able to apply. This makes it difficult to estimate the uninsured unemployed share of the workforce,” Duncan said. “On the other hand, many states reported a significant backlog of unemployment insurance applications due to a lack of processing capacity, indicating that this week’s release may understate the true extent of insured layoffs.”

This report comes days after the nationwide delinquency rate hit its highest single-month increase in history in April, according to the First Look at April mortgage performance data from Black Knight. 

According to Black Knight, some 3.6 million homeowners were past due on their mortgages as of the end of April (including the roughly 211,000 who were in active foreclosure)—the highest number since January 2015.

This is an increase of 1.6 million since March, the largest single-month jump on record. This number includes homeowners past due on mortgage payments who are not in forbearance, as well as those currently enrolled in forbearance plans and who did not make an April mortgage payment.

Earlier this month, Robert Dietz, Chief Economist for the National Association of Homebuilders, employment for homebuilding and remodeling fell to 2.54 million in April—the lowest level since November 2015. 

About Author: Mike Albanese

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Mike Albanese has worked for news publications since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, sports, and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the "Pilot Point Post-Signal," and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the "Dallas Morning News" and "Denton Record-Chronicle" over the past several years.

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