More than 2 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the number of workers seeking assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March topped 40 million, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday (May 28).
The seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ending May 23 was 2.1 million, a decrease of 323,000 from the previous week's 2,446,000, which was revised up by 8,000.
The four-week moving average of claims -- which can smooth out weekly variations -- also fell to 2.6 million, a decrease of 436,000 from the previous week's 3,044,000, which was upwardly revised by 2,000.
The largest increases in claims for the week ending May 16 were in California (31,764), Washington State (29,288), New York (24,543), Florida (2,322) and Michigan (1,549). In contrast, the states with the largest decreases were Georgia (-65,041), New Jersey (-27,324), Kentucky (-22,051), Louisiana (-11,580) and Pennsylvania (-11,172).
Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate, said that coming into this crisis, many people were living paycheck to paycheck. Now that millions have suffered a loss in employment, he said, many Americans are tapping retirement funds to pay bills, lacking other savings.
“With more than 2.1 million new claims, the economy remains in the virtual intensive care unit,” Hamrick said in a statement. “It is the 10th week with claims in the millions, [but] the eighth straight week of declining new claims.”