New Unemployment Claims Continue to Slow but Remain Enormous

by Robert Hughes
The American Institute for Economic Research

Initial claims for unemployment insurance totaled 3.17 million for the week ending May 2, marking the seventh consecutive week of massive numbers of layoffs (see chart), and dwarfing the previous high of 695,000 in October 1982.

During the Great Recession in 2008-09, total job losses were 8.7 million over 25 months versus the current 7-week total of 33.5 million initial claims (see chart). The peak number of unemployed people for the Great Recession, as measured in the household survey portion of the monthly Employment Situation report, actually occurred in October 2009, four months after the official end of the recession, and was 15.4 million (see chart). The unprecedented flood in claims is part of a tsunami of negative economic statistics that reflects the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the drastic policy reactions implemented to contain the spread.

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