Over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment during the pandemic—real jobless rate over 23.9%

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More than 2.1 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That brings the total jobless claims since mid-March to a staggering 40.8 million.

The latest batch of 2.1 million claims are down from the 2.4 million the week prior. While the number of weekly jobless claims has dropped eight consecutive weeks since topping out at 6.9 million in April, it still marks 10 straight weeks with claims topping 2 million. Prior to the shutdown of shops, offices and businesses across the country, weekly U.S. unemployment claims had averaged 218,000.

Another week with unemployment claims topping 2.1 million means the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 14.7% official unemployment rate appears even more out of touch with the real jobless rate. Since mid-April—the period covered by the BLS unemployment rate—another 14.3 million Americans have claimed unemployment benefits. When those 14.3 million are added to the already 23.1 million unemployed Americans in the latest jobs reports, it brings the total jobless over 37.4 million. That would be a real unemployment rate of 23.9%, closing in on the Great Depression peak of 25.6%.

But the official unemployment rate for May—due out next week— will almost certainly be an undercount given that only out-of-work Americans who are searching for new positions are categorized as unemployed, and, therefore, part of the labor force. And many jobless workers are choosing to wait out the virus and stay-at-home order before starting their search.

The most jobless claims during the week ending May 23 were in California (212,343), New York (192,193), and Georgia (164,350). The surge in Georgia unemployment claims highlights that even states that are easing business closures—which Georgia was among the first to do—are still in economic trouble.

Those on unemployment rolls are receiving an additional $600 weekly in benefits on top of their state benefits. However, unless that additional federal money is extended, that extra $600 will stop after the end of July.

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