What Is Going On With Unemployment Claims?

The U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday that 1.5 million American workers filed new unemployment claims last week, marking 27 consecutive weeks above a million ― a shocking streak.  Before this crisis, there had never been more than a million new unemployment claims in a single week, according to seasonally adjusted Labor Department data going back…

What Is Going On With Unemployment Claims?

The U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday that 1.5 million American workers filed new unemployment claims last week, marking 27 consecutive weeks above a million ― a shocking streak. 
Before this crisis, there had never been more than a million new unemployment claims in a single week, according to seasonally adjusted Labor Department data going back to 1967.
More people than usual are losing their jobs, and policymakers have left workers to fend for themselves while the coronavirus pandemic continues virtually unabated within the U.S. But experts say the claims data is not exactly right, and probably fewer than a million people actually got laid off in the traditional sense last week. 
“I do not think there actually are a million people losing their jobs every week now,” said Heidi Shierholz, a former Labor Department chief economist now with the liberal Economic Policy Institute. 
Shierholz said the claims number would be closer to half a million if it weren’t for recent policy changes allowing more people to qualify for benefits. That’s still well above the level weekly claims in recent years, which have hovered around 200,000. 
Multiple millions of people lost their jobs each week in March and April as state and local governments ordered businesses to shut down to encourage social distancing and slow the spread of the coronavirus. The majority of those early layoff victims, however, expected to return to the jobs that laid them off ― another unprecedented feature of the coronavirus recession. 
James Dooley of Gig Harbor, Washington, for instance, lost his job driving a truck for a sand and gravel company due to the coronavirus shutdown in March. He started receiving unemployment benefits, along with the now-expired $600 federal supplement, but eagerly returned to work when they called him back a month later. 
“I was making more on unemployment than I was at work, but I need something to do,” Dooley, 48, said in an interview. “Even if you’re making more money, it’s not like I could go to the movies. It’s not like I could hang out with friends or anything.” 
Dooley said he lost that job, again, a month later because the company’s trucks broke down. He got another job driving for a subcontractor at a quarry, but said he lost
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