US to get latest unemployment figures as virus explodes

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by Chris Stein

The ailing US economy is likely to receive good news Thursday in the government’s June employment report, but surging virus cases could reverse the tentative recovery.

The coronavirus pandemic since mid-March has cost more than 22 million US jobs — and as many as 45 million — as businesses were closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections.

But amid massive government support the economy regained 2.5 million jobs in May, sending the unemployment rate down to 13.3 percent — though that remains one of the highest figures on record and officials say it underestimates the true extent of joblessness.

Analysts expect the Labor Department report to show the country added 3.5 million jobs last month lowering the unemployment to 12.6 percent, which will add to the welcome news in other reports showing the world’s largest economy is on the mend.

But with the US seeing about 40,000 new cases of coronavirus a day, economists fear a renewed malaise as local authorities roll back the efforts to return to pre-pandemic normal and businesses are forced to shut down again.

A separate report on weekly claims for jobless benefits, set for release simultaneously Thursday by the Labor Department, will show whether this already is happening, and causing layoffs to pick up speed after slowing to an average of 1.6 million over the past four weeks.

“The claims numbers cannot be an afterthought. They indicate the extent to which companies and governments continue to shed workers,” economist Joel Naroff said.

“We need to get those number down dramatically as it is clear the reopening is not going as planned.” (AFP)

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