Brokers, gig workers add to swelling unemployment ranks

Across US, 2.4M jobless claims were filed last week; another 2.2M real estate agents and gig workers applied through separate federal program

TRD New York /
May.May 21, 2020 11:18 AM
 Millions of new jobless claims were filed last week, as all 50 states have now begun the complicated process of reopening their economies for business. (Getty, iStock)


Millions of new jobless claims were filed last week, as all 50 states have now begun the complicated process of reopening their economies for business. (Getty, iStock)

All 50 states have now begun the long and complicated process of reopening their economies, but millions of new jobless claims are still pouring in.

Another 2.4 million people filed for unemployment last week, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Department of Labor. New York and Florida were among the states that had the largest increases in new claims. Since states began shutting down nonessential businesses in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus, nearly 39 million people have filed for unemployment.

On top of last week’s figure, which includes only claims submitted to regular state unemployment programs, another 2.2 million people applied through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

The new federal program provides assistance to self-employed and gig-economy workers — from real estate agents to Uber drivers — who were ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits.

“The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is giving us a view into a segment of the workforce that’s harmed during a recession that we don’t typically get,” Moody’s Analytics economist Dante DeAntonio told the Wall Street Journal. “It gives us a better handle on the scope of what’s happening.”

The latest employment numbers come as companies large and small have continued to layoff employees at unprecedented rates. The economic fallout has also led to record declines in retail sales and increases in mortgage forbearance, as well as lingering concerns about low-income tenants’ ability to pay rent.

New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington were the states to see the largest increase in new jobless claims last week. In commentary provided to the Labor Department, Florida noted “layoffs in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, and service industries,” while New York’s commentary pointed to “layoffs in the transportation and warehousing, educational services, and public administration industries.”

The prior week’s new unemployment claims, which had been 2.98 million, was revised to 2.7 million in light of several data issues, including one that saw Connecticut overstate its weekly total by a factor of 10. [WSJ] — Kevin Sun


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