Pennsylvania jobless claims during pandemic near 1.8 million

Pennsylvania jobless claims during pandemic near 1.8 millionA worker moves past one of the open bay doors May 13, 2020, at the Cox Automotive Manheim Pittsburgh vehicle auctioning location in Cranberry Township, Pa., Wednesday. The corporation announced earlier this week it will furlough hundreds of workers here and more at its other locations around the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Keith Srakocic / AP photo

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania recorded another 75,000 new jobless claims, continuing a seven-week trend of declining claims but still about five times more than what the state saw before the coronavirus outbreak began. About 1.8 million Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment over the past eight weeks.

The latest numbers, released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor, reflect new claims for the week ending May 9. For Pennsylvania, they show a 20 percent decrease from the prior week.

Nationally, about 3 million people filed for unemployment that week, bringing the total for the past eight weeks to north of 36 million.

Given that some states have begun to reopen economic activity this month, not everyone who has filed for unemployment benefits during the outbreak remains out of work. Still, the jobless rate spiked to 15.7 percent, and banking firm Goldman Sachs is projecting that it will hit 25 percent before beginning to return to normalcy.

In February, before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and began to roil the economy, the national unemployment rate was just 3.5 percent. Pennsylvania had just 15,439 unemployment claims the week ending March 14; it hasn’t dipped below 75,000 since then.

In the May 9 numbers, Connecticut led all states with 298,680 new claims for unemployment after a computer error was fixed that had prevented claims from self-employed residents, leading to a 726 percent spike in new claims. Federal legislation enacted to respond to the near-total shutdown of most states’ economies made many people eligible for benefits who otherwise wouldn’t be, including the self-employed individuals, independent contractors and “gig economy” workers, like drivers for ride-sharing companies.

Oklahoma had the biggest drop in claims, with a 65 percent decline from the prior week.

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