1.9 million seek US jobless aid even as reopenings slow layoffs

June 04, 2020
In this Wednesday, June 3, 2020 photo, Juan Santos stocks shelves at the Presidente Supermarket in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. The U.S. government is set to issue its latest report on the layoffs that have left millions unemployed but have steadily slowed as many businesses have begun to reopen and to rehire some laid-off workers. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 1.9 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, evidence that many employers are still cutting jobs even as the gradual reopening of businesses has slowed the pace of layoffs.

The total number of people who are receiving jobless aid rose slightly to 21.5 million, down from a peak of nearly 25 million two weeks ago but still at a historically high level.

It shows that scattered rehiring is offsetting only some of the ongoing layoffs with the economy mired in a recession.

Thursday’s latest weekly number from the Labor Department is still more than double the record high that prevailed before the viral outbreak.

Still, the number of people who applied for benefits last week marked the ninth straight decline since applications spiked in mid-March.

The job market meltdown that was triggered by the coronavirus may have bottomed out as more companies call at least some of their former employees back to work.

“While the drop in new claims is welcomed news and more evidence that the worst of the job losses are behind us, the recovery in the labor market is expected to be painfully slow,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

“We look for a two-phase recovery, with an initial burst in rehiring followed by a much slower retracement of job losses.

Fewer people sought jobless aid last week in 47 states and in Washington, D.C., while the number rose in just California, Florida and Mississippi. The total number of people receiving aid fell in 37 states and in D.C. and increased in 13 states.

Applications for jobless benefits are falling in states that had reopened their businesses early, such as Georgia and Texas, and are also declining in those that are still early in the reopening process, such as New York and Massachusetts.

Some businesses that have reopened have seen only a limited number of customers so far.

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