Insured Unemployment Dips as Covid-19 Infections Rise in US

At 13.4%, the rate of insured unemployment rivals the population of Chile.

Dream City Church in Phoenix hosted the Students for Trump convention, which included a visit from President Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(CN) — Some 1.48 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week for the first time, joining the roughly 19.5 million people already getting benefits, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.

With an increase of 7,254 new claims, Oklahoma reported the highest uptick in new claims, while Florida and Maryland reported the largest drops.

Nevada continues to report the highest rate of insured unemployment in the country with 22.6% of its population on jobless benefits. Puerto Rico and Hawaii follow closely behind.

Included in these numbers are the 728,120 people in 46 states who filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers gig workers and the self-employed not normally eligible for assistance.

“If anything surprised me, it was just the depth and breadth of the drop in employment and how it has particularly hit certain vulnerable groups quite hard,” said Ben Cowan, an assistant professor of economics at Washington State University.

Suggesting the unemployment rate to be much higher than reported, at least 9 million Americans not counted in the country’s labor force were also out of a work in May, the Pew Research Center estimates.

If an individual is not actively looking for work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers him out of the work as opposed to unemployed. But research submitted to the National Bureau of Economic Research has begun to track Americans who have left the workforce alongside those counted in unemployment surveys.

Cowan at Washington State University measured a 3% drop in workforce participation as well as the 6% uptick in insured unemployment between February and April.

This research adds to the growing body of work quantifying disproportionate impacts on blacks, Asians and Hispanics who are not just more likely to be out of work than whites, but also less likely to return to work. The same holds true for women and individuals with disabilities. 

“We’ve seen from prior recessions that the longer people are out of work, the less likely they are to return to the labor force. There are scarring effects,” Cowan said. “We don’t know to what extent that will be true this time around. This is a recession driven by a pandemic which is unprecedented in recent memory. 

The U.S. reported a surge in new cases of Covid-19 last week with an average of 30,840 cases confirmed daily. To date, 2.43 million Americans have tested positive for Covid-19 and 124,000 have died from the disease.

As it allows businesses to reopen, Florida reported 5,511 new cases of the infectious respiratory disease Covid-19 on Wednesday, its highest daily record to date. On average, the Sunshine State reported 3,762 new daily cases over the last week, about 4 times its daily average at this time last month. 

Recognizing the tie between economic productivity and public health, many states are pressing people to follow policies aimed to slow the spread of Covid-19 like wearing face masks and maintaining social distance. 

“This global pandemic has had a terrible impact on the economy and our way of life,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said in a statement. “While we are taking cautious steps to rebuild our economy, we cannot let up in our shared efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19. If Coloradans don’t wear masks in public or practice good social distancing and physical hygiene, then will see case counts rise as they have in other states and the economy will further suffer.”

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. 

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