Job losses, trade deficit grow as Covid-19 batters US
Washington, Jun 4 (efe-epa).- More than 1.8 million people in the United States filed claims for unemployment benefits last week as the number of jobs lost to the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic topped 42 million, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The release of the weekly jobless claims figure coincided with the publication of data showing that US exports plunged by more than a fifth in April, increasing the trade deficit by nearly 17 percent.
The rolling four-week average of new unemployment claims dipped from 2.6 million to 2.28 million, according to the Labor Department.
While claims have been on a downward trajectory since peaking at 6.8 million in the last week of March, the average in the months prior to the Covid-19 shutdowns was around 200,000 a week.
Most of the 50 states experienced a reduction in claims in the week ending May 30, but California saw an increase of 618,000, which the Labor Department attributed to a change in the filing procedure in the Golden State.
More than 623,000 claims were filed last week nationwide for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, created to offer relief to independent contractors and other gig economy workers not eligible for conventional unemployment insurance.
In the week that ended May 16, 10.7 million Americans were receiving benefits under the program.
The Labor Department is set to release its May jobs report on Friday and analysts are expecting to see the headline unemployment rate climb from 14.7 percent to nearly 20 percent, approaching the 24.3 percent jobless rate recorded in 1933 during the worst of the Great Depression.
Separately, the Commerce Department reported Thursday that the US posted a trade deficit of $49.4 billion in April, up 16.7 percent from the previous month.
Exports of goods and services tumbled 20.5 percent to $151.3 billion, while imports dropped 13.7 percent to $200.7 billion.
“The declines in exports and imports that continued in April were, in part, due to the impact of Covid-19, as many businesses were operating at limited capacity or ceased operations completely, and the movement of travelers across borders was restricted,” the Commerce Department said.
The cumulative deficit for the first four months of 2020 was down 13.4 percent from the same period in 2019.
US gross domestic product shrank 5 percent in the first quarter, its largest quarterly decline since the global financial crisis in 2008.
The United States leads the world in both coronavirus cases – 1.9 million – and fatalities, which stand at 434,000. EFE