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Real unemployment rate soars past 20%—and the U.S. has now lost 26.5 million jobs

April 23, 2020, 12:42 PM UTC

Another 4.4 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims in the week ending April 18. That’s down from 5.2 million the week prior, however it marks the fifth consecutive week over 3 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

At the highest of levels of unemployment following the 2008 financial crisis, there were 15.3 million jobless Americans. But in the past five weeks a staggering 26.5 million workers have already filed jobless claims.

Prior to this five-week stretch of 26.5 million initial jobless 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 33 million unemployed, or a real unemployment rate of 20.6%—which would be the highest level since 1934.

The official unemployment rate from the BLS is 4.4%, but that calculation is through March 13—that was before the massive wave of stay-at-home orders. The April rate, which gets released in early May, is when we’ll see the unemployment rate top double digits.

We’re already seeing states fiscally and technologically overwhelmed by the continued flood of jobless claims. Many states, including Texas, are about to run out of unemployment trust funds—and will need to borrow from the Federal government. On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state’s unemployment site has “collapsed” following the spike in online claims.

The out-of-work who get approved to collect unemployment benefits will be eligible for an additional $600 in weekly payments. This money, which is on top of their state benefits, stems from the $2.2 trillion stimulus package and runs through July 31.

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