According to the latest unemployment data released by the Department of Labor on Thursday, the number of Americans newly applying for unemployment benefits decreased to 1,542,000 in the week ending June 6. While the latest drop in initial claims marks the 10th consecutive week of declines, the number of weekly unemployment claims is still historically high. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, weekly claims had peaked at 695,000 in the fall of 1982, putting this week’s “positive” news in perspective. As our chart shows, weekly unemployment claims have trended downwards since hitting 6.9 million in late March, but remain far above the levels seen before the pandemic hit.
The number of people receiving unemployment benefits also saw a slight decline in the week ended May 30, but with more than 20 million people out of work, the jobs crisis is far from over. When asked about his expectation of how many of the latest job losses will turn out permanent in this week’s FOMC press conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that it “could be well into the millions of people who don’t get to go back to their old job,” and that “it could be some years before we get back to those people finding jobs.”
President Trump, an outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve in the past, didn’t agree with Powell’s cautious stance on economic recovery. “The Federal Reserve is wrong so often,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “I see the numbers also, and do MUCH better than they do. We will have a very good Third Quarter, a great Fourth Quarter, and one of our best ever years in 2021.”