2.43 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week

A bicyclist passes by the boarded-up Old Navy store in downtown Seattle. For the week ending May 16 Washington state saw more than 145,000 initial weekly claims for jobless benefits one of the biggest surges in new weekly claims since the coronavirus

This brings the nine-week jobless claims total since the coronavirus crisis took hold in the U.S.to approximately 38.6 million people.

"The 4-week moving average was 3,042,000, a decrease of 501,000 from the previous week's revised average".

"But at 2.4 million new claims last week, the seismic impact should not be dismissed because earlier shock waves were larger", Bankrate Senior Economic Analyst Mark Hamrick said in an email Thursday.

"A couple of large states, Florida and NY, still had increases in their weekly claims, but the majority of states are seeing new claims fall by 20 percent per week", UBS said in a note dated May 15, seen by Yahoo Finance.

After hitting a record in the week ending March 28, the weekly initial jobless claims figure has been on a steady decline. Each subsequent week has seen claims decline.

Continuing claims - the total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits - increased to a record 25.1 million in the week ended May 9.

Those series are reported with a one-week lag. The week prior was 22.548. This includes a significant group of workers who had inadvertently suspended their benefits because of how they responded to the federally mandated weekly certification questions.

The department continues to receive tens of thousands of customers per week responding to one or more certification questions in a way that makes their claim ineligible for benefits under federal law.

These workers generally do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance, but to get federal aid for coronavirus-related job and income losses they must first file for state benefits and be denied. These super-sized benefits, however, are set to run out in July.

The new claims numbers may be undercounting the toll the coronavirus and lockdowns have exacted on the USA labor market.

The government said the USA unemployment rate soared to 14.7 percent in April, the highest since the Great Depression.

"None of these states had systems set up to process the unprecedented amount of claims in one fell swoop, so there are backlogs", said Steve Blitz, chief U.S. economist at TS Lombard in NY.

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