Even as states reopen and some workers return to their posts, millions of Americans continue to file for unemployment benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Department of Labor, 1.88 million people applied for jobless claims in the last week of May — a decline from the previous week’s upwardly revised 2.13 million but above economists’ forecasts of 1.78 million filings.
What’s more, for the week ended May 30, the total number of continuing claims — which represents the number of Americans still collecting unemployment checks and paints a broader picture of joblessness in the country — hit 21.5 million, marking a 649,000 increase over the prior week.
Over the course of a little more than a month, the pandemic managed to wipe out all job gains since the Great Recession and brought to a halt the United States’ decade-long economic expansion. The past 11 weeks have seen more than 41 million Americans newly unemployed as states were forced to shut down nonessential businesses to help curb the spread of COVID-19, which has infected 1.85 million people in the United States and led to at least 107,100 deaths. (Prior to the pandemic, claims hovered at just over 200,000 each week.)
Now, as states and localities loosen their lockdown restrictions, many workers will gradually be expected to return to their posts. However, experts have pointed out that it would likely take years for the economy to recover from the tens of millions of jobs lost during the health crisis. Plus, ongoing national unrest following the death of George Floyd — an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody on May 25 — have led many companies to postpone reopenings or cut back on operating hours, reducing the number of workers needed back in stores.