Another 5.2 million Americans and 103,000 Massachusetts residents filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, the fourth straight week of surging demand amid the coronavirus pandemic. Both the national and state figures declined from each of the past two weeks, but they still outstripped any week on record going back to at least 1987 and likely before that.
In data published Thursday morning, the federal Department of Labor reported about 5.25 million new claims filed between April 5 and April 11 in the U.S., a drop from the more than 6.6 million filed the week prior. Massachusetts received 103,040 new applications last week, compared to 139,647 a week earlier. The COVID-19 crisis has prompted widespread business closures and an economic downturn of unrivaled rapidity. Over the past four weeks, more than 22 million Americans and 572,000 Massachusetts residents have filed new claims for jobless aid. In February, state officials calculated the Massachusetts labor force as about 3.8 million strong.
Thursday's data indicate that nearly one in seven workers have sought unemployment benefits in the past month. The federal government is steering massive amounts of money into economic stimulus checks and the unemployment benefits system, but the surge in demand is putting great strain on state systems, which are funded with employer premiums. Many of the lost jobs are in the restaurant, retail and hospitality sectors, and when those jobs will come back online and in what kinds of numbers is anyone's guess as Massachusetts remains in the grips of the COVID-19 surge.