U.S. set to report millions more unemployment claims this week

  • A shopper heads out of an Ace Hardware store past a sign advertising for workers Friday during a statewide stay-at-home order in an effort to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus in Denver. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

    A shopper heads out of an Ace Hardware store past a sign advertising for workers Friday during a statewide stay-at-home order in an effort to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus in Denver. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/30/2020 10:29 AM

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is forecast to set a record for the second straight week following 3.28 million in last week's data, with the darkest prediction expecting the figure to almost double.

The release, due Thursday for the week ended March 28, is now being looked to as a more timely barometer than the payrolls report because it shows how the coronavirus and the sudden economic stop implemented to contain it are reshaping the labor market. The median projection from economists surveyed by Bloomberg puts the figure at 3.3 million, slightly above the prior reading, which was already more than quadruple the previous record.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The claims report "will likely reflect both newly laid-off workers as well as states catching up on previously filed claims that had not yet been captured in the system due to overwhelming demand," Wells Fargo economist Sam Bullard wrote in a note. He projects 3.15 million.

While Friday's payroll figures are forecast to show a more-modest decline in jobs in March, they reflect data from earlier in the month before most virus-related shutdowns. So, the bigger job losses -- and an unemployment rate potentially rising by several percentage points -- are more likely to show up in the April data due in May.

The most dire prediction puts the figure at 6.5 million -- the forecast of Thomas Costerg at Banque Pictet & Cie. -- while Goldman Sachs estimates 5.25 million and Citigroup is at 4 million.

What Bloomberg's Economists Say:

"The March jobs report will vastly understate the extent of labor dislocation occurring as a result of the economic 'hard stop' resulting from containments efforts of the Covid-19 crisis. Instead, the more important information regarding the speed of labor market deterioration will be the weekly data on filings for unemployment benefits, a.k.a initial jobless claims."

-- Carl Riccadonna, Yelena Shulyatyeva, Andrew Husby, and Eliza Winger

The new jobless claims figure will arrive days after President Donald Trump announced that guidance around social distancing -- the virus containment measure that has also shut much business activity -- would extend until at least April 30, amid rapidly rising infections and deaths across the nation. The president previously said he hoped that the economy would be "raring to go" by the Easter holiday.

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