Frank Franklin II/AP
Another 1.5 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, a decline of 58,000.
But the number who are continuing to seek the payments is continuing to fall as workers return to their jobs. The Labor Department said continued claims dipped by 62,000 to 20.5 million.
In the past 13 weeks, since the early days of the coronavirus crisis, new claims have totaled a staggering 45.7 million.
The nation’s unemployment rate was 13.3% last month, even as states began to ease lockdowns and reopen their economies. That’s down slightly from April’s spike to 14.7%, which was the highest since the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve expects it to still be more than 9% by the end of 2020.
With consumers accounting for a big chunk of economic activity, this week’s retail sales report was somewhat of a bright spot. Sales jumped 17.7% in May, with sharp increases in most categories. But that followed record drops in the two prior months and sales are still far below last year’s levels.
The recovery is being held back in part because the wealthiest U.S. households have been spending less during the coronavirus recession than their lower-income counterparts, according to new research out this week.