U.S. Jobless Claims Seen in Millions for Third Straight Week
An empty office is seen inside the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. (Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

U.S. Jobless Claims Seen in Millions for Third Straight Week

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(Bloomberg) -- For the third straight week, the number of Americans filing for unemployment is likely in the millions, with another grim round of figures due next Thursday as the coronavirus shuts down more of the economy.

Jobless claims will total 5 million in the week ending April 4, according to the median of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That would be down slightly from the prior week’s record 6.65 million but still the second-highest reading in weekly data since 1967 that until recently had never topped 695,000.

A three-week tally of 15 million newly jobless would also make an unemployment rate above 10% a mathematical near-certainty for April, following 4.4% in March.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. economists say that the grim tally is likely to reach an unprecedented peak of 7 million this week, citing their analysis of web searches.

“Google data suggest that more people are searching for information on unemployment benefits right now than in either of the last two weeks,” forecaster Jesse Edgerton wrote in a report Friday. “Obviously the range of uncertainty around this forecast is wide, and a substantial decline is also possible.”

Since last week, Florida and other states have adopted stay-at-home orders that further curb activity, and the number of Google queries for information on “unemployment benefits” has been higher so far this week than last, he said.

The report put JPMorgan at the top of the projected range for the next release, with 16 estimates so far. The lowest, by Lloyds Bank Plc, is for 2.5 million.

The March employment report out earlier Friday also underscored the nearly impossible task of forecasting during a crisis with no modern historical precedent. Jobs fell 701,000 from the prior month, worse than all but four of the 79 estimates in a Bloomberg survey that had called for a 100,000 decline.

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