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By Brooke Migdon
     WASHINGTON (MNI) - Americans likely filed 2.1 million initial jobless
claims last week, lifting the total through Covid-19 to 41 million and
suggesting the unemployment rate will continue surging to fresh record highs.
     The Bloomberg forecast is close to the previous week's 2.4 million, a shift
from earlier when economists saw a much faster drop-off in new applications. The
expected increase due in figures Thursday would push initial claims tied to
coronavirus shutdowns well past the 37 million filed during the global financial
crisis. 
     Substantial damage is expected to continue with analysts saying weekly
claims will remain above 1 million through at least June. State re-openings in
early May put some Americans back to work, but many firms are still slow to
rehire as business and consumer confidence continue to plunge. 
     Claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance -- covering people typically
ineligible for state benefits like independent contractors -- surged to 2.2
million last week from 850,000 in the week ending May 9. When those are added to
state claims, the total filed through May 16 reached 4.4 million.
     --25M CONTINUING CLAIMS
     However, the Massachusetts department of labor last week incorrectly
reported that 1.2 million initial PUA claims were filed through May 16, later
correcting that figure to 115,952. The number of PUA claims filed through May 16
will be revised lower Thursday, though researchers say more reporting errors in
the coming weeks are likely as states adjust to the new reporting system.
     Continuing claims, now at an all-time high of 25 million, are expected to
peak soon before dropping off as some workers are hired back.
     "This return may be slow and bumpy," analysts at Societe Generale wrote in
a research note. "But through June and into 3Q, returning workers can gain
traction."
     Some good news: the peak in claims has surely passed, after hitting 6.9
million in late March.
--MNI Washington Bureau; +1 202 371 2121; email: brooke.migdon@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MAUDS$,MAUPR$,M$U$$$]