First-time filings for unemployment insurance hit 3.84 million last week as the wave of economic pain continues, though the worst appears to be in the past, according to Labor Department figures Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for 3.5 million.
Jobless claims for the week ended April 25 came in at the lowest level since March 21 but bring the rolling six-week total to 30.3 million as part of the worst employment crisis in U.S. history. Claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 28 and have declined each week since then.
Last week’s initially reported figure was revised up by 15,000 to 4.4 million, meaning that the most recent total is a decrease of 603,000. Continuing claims rose to just shy of 18 million, a rise of 2.2 million from the previous week. The four-week moving average, which smooths volatility, jumped to 13.3 million, an increase of 3.7 million from the previous week’s average.
The surge in unemployment has come amid efforts to contain the coronavirus spread. While some states and municipalities have begun bringing their respective economies back online, much of the key U.S. infrastructure remains on lockdown.
Economists not only expect the Q1 number to end up sharply lower but predict a second-quarter decline worse than anything the U.S. has ever seen.
The most recent claims data comes ahead of next week’s nonfarm payrolls report for April. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the unemployment rate is likely to rise above 10% from the March level of 4.4% which counted a period before the intense social distancing policies went into effect.
Nonfarm payrolls for April are expected to show a decline of 2.25 million, with an unemployment rate of 15.1%, according to preliminary estimates from FactSet.