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number of Americans collecting and applying for unemployment benefits

Almost SIX MILLION Americans have filed claims to continue receiving unemployment benefits – nearing pre-pandemic high seen during the 2009 recession

  • The 5.9million who have collected and applied for unemployment benefits still exceed any historical precedent 
  • Figure is close to a prior peak of 6.5million set in March 2009 during the Great Recession 
  • Current level is triple what it was in February but down substantially from the 23million claims in May
  • On the week of November 21, there were around 828,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance filed, according to the Labor Department 

Almost six million Americans filed a ‘continued claim’ for state unemployment insurance in mid-November, almost exceeding pre-pandemic records. 

The 5.9million who have collected and applied for unemployment benefits still exceed any historical precedent, showing the many workers are still struggling nine months after the country first went into lockdown for the pandemic.   

‘The numbers we’re looking at now are [far higher than] anything we’ve seen before,’ Erica Groshen, former commissioner of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, explained to CNBC. ‘We’ve never seen a shock like this.’   

The figure, provided by the Labor Department, comes from the week November 14 and is close to a prior peak of 6.5million set in March 2009 during the Great Recession.   

5.9 million Americans filed ‘continued claims’ for unemployment benefits in the week of November 14, according to the Labor Department. Cars wait in line to receive free groceries for people experiencing food insecurity due to the coronavirus pandemic

Volunteers from Action Church serve Thanksgiving dinner to residents in this north Georgia town, many of whom are low-income, elderly or unemployed due to Covid-19 pandemic

Volunteers from Action Church serve Thanksgiving dinner to residents in this north Georgia town, many of whom are low-income, elderly or unemployed due to Covid-19 pandemic

Not reflected in the figures are seasonal adjustments, which allows for a better comparison of the statistics across time. 

The current level is triple what it was in February but down substantially from the 23million claims in May.

The share of those receiving jobless benefits currently does exceed the record set during the Great Recession. 5 million workers are receiving benefits via other programs after already exhausting their allotment of traditional unemployment insurance.  

Additionally, there are 9 million workers who are self-employed or are working as part of the gig economy. They are currently receiving benefits through the temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.  

On the week of November 21, there were around 828,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance filed, according to the Labor Department

On the week of November 21, there were around 828,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance filed, according to the Labor Department

Along with continued claims, initial claims are also seeing higher figures compared to past decades. 

On the week of November 21, there were around 828,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance filed, according to the Labor Department.  

This is down from the peak 6.2 million initial claims that were filed in early april, some four times pre-pandemic levels in February.  

There were another 312,000 workers who filed an initial claim through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

In 1982 and 1983, around 1 million workers filed for initial claims. Initial claims also historically peaked in 1975 when there were 969,000 claims; 957,000 in 2009; and 882,000 in 1992.  

Those high levels were mostly set in January, following holiday season or immediately after an economic downturn.     

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