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“Devastating” Job Losses Continue With Unemployment Likely Above 20%

Initial jobless claims figures show that an additional 3.16 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. This came in slightly above expectations of 3 million. Claims are 677,000 lower than the week before, although still staggeringly high in historical terms. With the fifth consecutive week of reduced increases, the latest Labor Department report indicates that layoffs due to the coronavirus peaked in March and are now trending downwards.

Key Takeaways

  • Claims last week came in at 3.16 million vs. 3 million expected and 3.8 million the week before.
  • Over 33 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last month and a half.
  • ADP employment figures reveal that March-April saw over twice the job losses seen throughout the Great Recession.
  • The rate of unemployment is currently estimated at over 20%.

Jobless claims, a key indicator of layoffs, showed another 3 million Americans lost their jobs last week, which was more than expected. The rate of layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic has gradually slowed to a rate of approximately 3 million a week since March and is likely to continue to drop. It’s possible that some of the claims from last week were actually backlogged from earlier weeks due to the intense pressure currently placed on the application systems.

The latest ADP employment report showed that the private sector shed 20 million jobs between March 12 – April 12, more than double the losses seen throughout the entire Great Recession which spanned three years. It’s likely that the sum total of job losses in all sectors was much higher, and a representative from the ADP Research Institute stated that the job losses were unprecedented.

While large businesses with over 500 employees predictably laid off the most workers, 9 million in total, small businesses were hit very hard by comparison. Companies of 49 staff or fewer lost 6 million jobs in the private sector between March and April.

Unemployment Above 20%

Neel Kashari, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, commented on the estimated level of unemployment earlier today, saying "I think the real number is probably around 23 or 24%. It's devastating."

However, while the collapse of the labor market is a major blow to the US economy, certain aspects of the economy are beginning to show signs of increased activity.

The intensity and speed at which the current economic disaster has struck the US is likely unprecedented, but it’s also likely that the recovery time from this recession will be shorter than previous recessions, with economists expecting to measure recovery in years rather than decades.

Market Reaction

Gold prices have struggled against resistance at $1,700 following the release of the latest initial jobless claims report. Spot gold last traded at $1,695.40/oz, up 0.41% with a high of $1,698.62/oz and a low of $1,684.12/oz. The US dollar ticked upward by around 25 basis points yesterday, possibly contributing to downward pressure in the pressure metals markets.