2.4 Million More Join Ranks of Unemployed

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
May 21, 2020

The U.S. Labor Department (DOL) reported that an additional 2.4 million people filed for jobless benefits last week, bringing the total to over 38.6 million since the middle of March. While this figure is lower than last week's 2.9 million, which itself was lower than the week before's 3.2 million, it nonetheless dwarves the 211,000 unemployment filings from the same week last year.

New York, with 226,521 new claims, was outdone only by California, with 246,115.

The DOL said the country's insured unemployed rate is now 17.2 percent, which places it higher than it was in 1931, when the Dust Bowl hit, but lower than 1932, when the rate climbed to 23 percent amid Herbert Hoover's ineffective attempts to control the damage.

As grim as these statistics may be, they are likely rosier than the actual picture: As the weekly figures count only those who successfully applied for unemployment, one must remember that many are unable to do even that, as overwhelmed systems are still crashing and glitching amid soaring demand.

Further, even when people have successfully applied, many states have yet to process their applications and begin payment, said Fast Company. Labor rights group One Fair Wage estimates that, based on DOL data, only about 56 percent of unemployment claims have actually worked their way through the system and produced money. While some states have been effective at moving applications through the bureaucracy, such New York at 90 percent, others have done dismally, such as South Dakota at 7 percent (it makes one wonder what North Dakota, which has a 51 percent rate, is doing differently.)

Markets evidently don't like this news. As of 11:33 a.m., the Dow was down by 133 points, the S&P 500 was down by 24 points, and the Nasdaq was down by 92 points. However, the day isn't over, and the indices have been particularly whiplash-heavy these past few weeks.

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