The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Thursday that 4.4 million workers filed new unemployment claims last week, bringing the total number of claims to 26 million in just five weeks.
Erica Groshen is a senior extension faculty member at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. From 2013 to 2017, she served as the 14th Commissioner of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Groshen says that today’s data reinforces forecasts of a Great Depression-level unemployment rate by the end of April.
“The high pace at which new filings continue to flow in reinforces forecasts that the national unemployment rate for April will soar to substantially over 10%, perhaps in the neighborhood of 20%, of the labor force. Unemployment during the Great Depression is estimated to have peaked at a bit over 25%.
“With the UI filings we have now seen, the main factors that could constrain the unemployment rate to 13% or below would be many job losers considering themselves out of the labor force for now and/or working much shorter hours. Going forward, once restrictions can be lifted safely, the speed of economic recovery will be strongly affected by how many workers now filing were laid off temporarily versus permanently.
“Workers on temporary layoff have an employer to return to. They can be recalled quickly and become immediately productive. Those on permanent layoff will need to search, be hired, and then be onboarded and trained before they are fully productive.”