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Unemployment filers surpass the 30 million mark

Getting consumers back to work in safe environments is a major goal for the Department of Labor

Photo (c) da-kuk - Getty Images
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold the economy hostage, the number of first-time unemployment insurance filers in the U.S. rose another 3.84 million in the last week, moving the total number of claims across the 30 million mark. 

However, there’s a small silver lining in that report -- the latest total is a decrease of 603,000 from the previous week's revised level

All 50 states are delivering unemployment checks

There’s another sliver of good in the state-by-state unemployment filings, too. For the week ending April 25, only seven U.S. states showed increases in the number of filings. 

This is a welcome relief for the states. When the pandemic hit, unemployment insurance funding and staffing at the state level was at an all-time low, forcing the states to play catch-up. A new study from the Economic Policy Institute suggests that for every 10 people who were able to file an unemployment claim, there were another three or four who weren’t successful, as well as two more who didn’t apply because they thought it was too difficult.

For those who were able to get through the filing process, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia says they are now getting what they were promised. 

“All 50 states are now delivering the $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit provided by the CARES Act,” Scalia in a statement regarding Unemployment Insurance claims. “The Department has disbursed more than three-quarters of a billion dollars to States to help them deliver this relief as quickly as possible as Americans follow the guidance of public health officials to ‘slow the spread.’”

The impact continues to hit home

Gallup went a little further down the rabbit hole to try and find just how close to home pandemic-related unemployment has hit. In a recent study, its researchers found that:

  • Nearly one in every three Americans have experienced either a temporary layoff, permanent job loss, reduction in hours, or reduction in pay as an extent of the coronavirus situation; 

  • Eighteen percent have experienced more than one of these disruptions; and

  • The hardest-hit population sector are those in the lower income brackets. Among pre-epidemic annual household incomes of less than $36,000 annually, 14 percent report being temporarily laid off, 4 percent have been permanently let go, and 32 percent have seen a loss of income.

The long look ahead

Projections for when America will be back at full speed with workers at desks, travelers on planes, and people hugging and high-five’ing again is anyone’s guess. 

However, as to the workers-at-desks question, the prospect doesn’t bode well. In a separate survey, Gallup found that a record-high 25 percent of employed U.S. adults think it’s possible that they’ll be laid off in the next year -- just a year after a 45-year low of 8 percent was registered for the same question. 

Scalia’s viewpoint isn’t quite as blunt, but he says there’s one key element that is likely to make a significant impact.

“Looking ahead, as workplaces reopen, we must ensure that individuals transition from unemployment back into the workforce,” Scalia said. “Key to this process will be workplace safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been at the forefront of workplace safety since January, delivering important resources and guidance to businesses to help them keep workers safe, and investigating and responding to worker complaints.”

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