22 million have lost their jobs over the past month—real unemployment rate likely nearing 18%

Another 5.2 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims in the week ending April 11. That brings the total unemployment claims over the past four weeks to 22 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The total weekly claims fell close to 1.4 million from last week’s 6.6 million initial unemployment claims. Economists had been expecting the report to show the ranks of jobless Americans increasing by 5.5 million.

But these claims are still staggering: The one-week record—before the current streak of multi-million claims—was 695,000 in October 1982.

Prior to this four-week stretch of 22 million unemployment claims, there were already 7.1 million unemployed Americans as of March 13, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. When the figures are combined, it would equal more than 29 million unemployed. That’s a real unemployment rate of 17.9%—higher than month since 1938.

For perspective: We’ve only had one month over the past 30 years with a double digit unemployment rate. And that was 10% in October 2009.

The BLS’ official unemployment rate is 4.4%, but that calculation is through March 13—right before the massive wave of jobless claims. The April jobs report is when we should start to see this double digit figure manifest.

Not every initial unemployment claim will translate into unemployment insurance benefits. But then again, that won’t matter in terms of calculating the unemployment rate, which includes everyone out-of-work and also looking for work.

As apart of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package, jobless Americans who get put on their state’s unemployment insurance rolls will be eligible for an additional $600 in weekly payments. As long as they remain on the UI rolls, they’ll continue to receive the additional money through July 31.

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