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Unemployment remains high in Mississippi and the U.S.



(Image from Mississippi Department of Employment Security)

The number of new unemployment claims continues to decline in Mississippi, even as continued claims remain high.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was verified in the state March 11, more than 350,000 Mississippians have filed for unemployment benefits. For the week ending June 13, new claims numbered 18,013, which was down more 3,000 claims from the previous week. The four-week average for new claims is 21,792.

In the first few weeks in April at the peak of the unemployment crisis in the state, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security was seeing more than 45,000 new claims every week.

Continued claims, where a person filed for unemployment benefits in the weeks following their initial claim, ticked up for the week of June 6 by more than 6,000 claims to 155,349.

In addition, at least 27,000 Mississippians have filed for unemployment under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, or PUA. That program provides benefits to individuals not covered by state programs, including people who are self-employed, work as independent contractors or as gig workers.

The data provided for the PUA program is incomplete. Mississippi began providing PUA benefits at the end of April but did not report those numbers to the U.S. Department of Labor until the end of May. Continued claims in Mississippi for PUA benefits numbered 47,450 the week ending May 30, which was down by nearly 8,000 claims from the previous week.

Combining the numbers of continued claims under the Mississippi unemployment program and the federal PUA program shows that nearly 203,000 Mississippians were unemployed at the end of May.

In April, the size of the civilian labor force in Mississippi was 1,190,900 people. Nearly 203,000 unemployed represents a 17% unemployment rate. The official unemployment rate for April 2020 in Mississippi was 15.4% which was 10% higher than the rate for April 2019.

Mississippi’s unemployment figures for May will be released June 23.

Unemployment claims in Mississippi since the first COVID-19 case in the state
Week ending New claims Continued claims PUA claims PUA continued claims
3/14/2020 1,147 7,098
3/21/2020 5,519 6,667
3/28/2020 32,015 9,581
4/4/2020 45,852 29,373
4/11/2020 45,748 60,737
4/18/2020 36,913 93,005
4/25/2020 29,906 135,722 ?
5/2/2020 25,745 208,270 ? ?
5/9/2020 23,618 189,886 ? ?
5/16/2020 24,242 184,150 ? 59,060
5/23/2020 23,856 174,808 ? 55,413
5/30/2020 24,014 148,902 10,784 47,450
6/6/2020 21,283 155,349 8,403
6/13/2020 18,013 8,203
Total 357,871 27,390

On the national level, 1.5 million Americans filed new unemployment claims during the week ending June 13, continuing historically high numbers of unemployed people in the U.S. Before the COVID-19 crisis, the record number of new claims in one month was 695,000 in October 1982.

More than 45 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment benefits in the past three months. For the week ending June 6, more than 20.5 million Americans were unemployed, and the national unemployment rate was 14.1%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The numbers of new claims have been falling for several weeks in most U.S. states. The exceptions are states that have seen sharp rises in COVID-19 cases, such as Arizona, which has seen a rise in cases and unemployment for two weeks.

Job losses have been most severe for people with low incomes, minorities and women, according to Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve. Last week, Powell warned that the nation’s economy faces “significant uncertainty” in the weeks and months ahead.

“Much of that economic uncertainty comes from uncertainty about the path of the disease and the effects of measures to contain it,” Powell said in his testimony before the Senate Banking committee Tuesday. “Until the public is confident that the disease is contained, a full recovery is unlikely.”

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