Nationally, 2.4 million initial unemployment insurance claims filed last week, down 249,000 from previous week.

Unemployment claims continue to be filed at an alarming rate. The U.S. Department of Labor reported,

In the week ending May 16, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 2,438,000, a decrease of 249,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 294,000 from 2,981,000 to 2,687,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,042,000, a decrease of 501,000 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised down by 73,500 from 3,616,500 to 3,543,000.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 17.2 percent for the week ending May 9, an increase of 1.7 percentage points from the previous week’s revised rate. The previous week’s rate was revised down by 0.2 from 15.7 to 15.5 percent.

As the DOL graph shows, things are moving in the right direction. Slowly.

In The Seattle Times, Paul Roberts reports,

Washington state saw more than 145,000 initial weekly claims for jobless benefits, the third-largest number of new weekly claims since the coronavirus crisis began forcing layoffs in March, according to new federal data.

For the week ending May 16, workers in Washington filed 145,228 initial claims for unemployment insurance, a 31% increase over the prior week, according to figures released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor. The increase came even as the nation as a whole saw the number of initial jobless claims fall 9.2%, to 2.4 million, according to the Labor Department.

As Roberts points out, the state Employment Security Department will report its own numbers later today. The state’s numbers, he notes, usually differ some, but follow the same trend. A complication:

The new figures could push the state’s total number of initial claims to nearly 1.2 million — but they will also add to concerns that the state’s unemployment system has been hit by identity thieves looking to siphon off some of the extra jobless benefits offered under the federal government’s pandemic relief measures.

The Associated Press reports on the national figures.

An additional 2.2 million sought aid under a new federal program for self-employed, contractor and gig workers, who are now eligible for unemployment benefits for the first time. Those figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations, so they are not included in the overall number of applications.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the unemployment rate could peak in May or June at 20% to 25% — a level unseen since the depths of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

And, yes, the economic impact is staggering.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the economy is shrinking at a 38% annual rate in the April-June period, by far the worst quarterly contraction on record.

More later.