U.S. Unemployment Wave May be Cresting, but Murky Waters Still Ahead

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that while nearly 4 million people came off unemployment benefits in May, the unemployment rate is still expected to jump to nearly 20% in May. The official number of current employment claims for May exceeded 21.05 million, while the total number of claims since March has totaled over 40 million. These staggering totals, almost unbelievable, are still likely under-counting the true total of unemployed Americans, due to widespread reports of an inability to access benefits as well as back-logged unemployment offices struggling to process applications from weeks ago. Market data provider Refinitive estimates that there are likely 7.5 million additional lost jobs. Furthermore, many economists are predicting that many furloughs and lost positions that were originally supposed to be only temporary will likely soon become permanent job losses, some of which will be in response to new social distancing guidelines leading to decreased capacity in retail and service sectors. “These are just enormous numbers,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank for CNBC, who also reported that the number of unemployed people freelancers and gig workers is counted separately, as they are receiving benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program has exceeded 8 Million as of May 23. “It’s still at least three times more than the number of people filing claims in any week of the Great Recession…it’s still the worst labor market since the Great Depression. That’s not going…