Four Points Higher Than in Great Recession: 14% Still Out of Work

Taken Monday, this photo of burned bricks on a modern storefront in Tulsa, Okla., shows one of the few surviving reminders of the cit’ys more than 30-block historic black district. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

(CN) — As the country rides atop a crest of Covid-19 infections, the U.S. insured unemployment rate remains an uncomfortably consistent 14%, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday.

During the 2008 Great Recession, unemployment peaked at 10.6%. And during the 1930s Great Depression, unemployment rose as high as 25%.

As of last week, 20 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits nationwide, on par with the four-week average. Last week, states processed 1.5 million new initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits. 

A total of 29 million Americans claimed benefits from all programs as of May 30, including 9 million people who claimed benefits for pandemic-specific assistance programs. That’s about 65% of the 44 million Americans who have applied for benefits since mid-March. 

Pew Research Center estimates an additional 9 million Americans not counted in the country’s labor force were also out of a job in May, suggesting the unemployment rate is much higher than reported. 

The Department of Labor used covered employment of 145,671,710 in its calculation, defining that term as Americans who are “unemployed through no fault of their own,” while also meeting certain work and wage requirements. 

To date, 2.21 million Americans tested positive for Covid-19, a staggering 119,000 of whom have died. As multiple states report record highs in cases, coast to coast, the country confirmed an average of 22,000 cases per day over the last week.  

Nevada holds the highest insured unemployment rate in the country at 24%, followed by Puerto Rico and Hawaii, both above 20%. With 27,202 new claims last week, California saw the highest increase in claims, followed by Massachusetts and Oklahoma, with about 17,000 new claims each. 

Two states reporting deceases in unemployment claims also reported their highest rates of Covid-19. Spearheading an aggressive reopening of businesses, Florida reported 95,546 fewer claims for jobless benefits than the previous week. With 82,719 confirmed cases and 3,018 deaths, however, the Sunshine State saw 15,348 new cases last week — a daily average of 2,192. The population of Florida is 21.48 million people. 

Texas also saw 17,001 fewer claims for unemployment benefits alongside a daily average of 2,368 new cases, adding up a weekly total of 16,578 newly confirmed cases of Covid-19. The Lone Star State, in which 29 million people reside, has confirmed 94,206 cases and 2,029 deaths to date.  

Many workers who have returned to their job say they are not being provided adequate protections from Covid-19. A June 16 poll from the Economic Policy Institutes reported a third of people polled are receiving hazard pay, but “there is pervasive fear among workers of bringing the coronavirus home from work, especially among vulnerable workers with the least bargaining power, such as Black and Hispanic workers and low- and middle-income workers.” 

A June 17 analysis by Morning Consult ties consumer confidence to local rates of Covid-19 decreases, but points out that unemployment is also an important factor in whether or not people are spending money.

Even if the reduction in unemployment is celebrated at face value, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warned in a Monday report that the country’s recession is far from over and many states will be hard hit with $615 billion in budget shortfalls. 

The Congressional Budget Office projects unemployment will remain around 11.5% through the December. Given today’s numbers, that puts 16 million people out of work during Christmas.

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