WASHINGTON: A second wave of layoffs amid weak demand and fractured supply chains is likely keeping new U.S. applications for unemployment benefits elevated, supporting views that the economy faces a long and difficult recovery from the COVID-19 recession.
The Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report on Thursday, the most timely data on the economy’s health, is expected to sketch a picture of continued labor market distress even though employers hired a record 2.5 million workers in May as businesses reopened after shuttering in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Millions are still collecting unemployment checks. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers this week that “significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery.” The economy fell into recession in February.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits likely totaled a seasonally adjusted 1.3 million for the week ended June 13, down from 1.542 million in the prior week, according to a Reuters survey of economists.
The 11th straight weekly drop would push claims further away from a record 6.867 million in late March. Still, claims would be roughly double their peak during the 2007-09 Great Recession.
“People will say claims are coming down, but for an economy that is reopening, that is a huge number,” said Steven Blitz, chief U.S. economist at TS Lombard in New York.
“The economy is losing workers and employment beyond the initial impact tied to businesses that shut down. There are a lot of industries that are getting hurt and that’s starting to cascade down, that is what those numbers are showing.”
From manufacturing, retail, information technology and oil and gas production, companies have announced job cuts. State and local governments, whose budgets have been shattered by the COVID-19 fight, are also cutting jobs.