Real unemployment rate soars past 24.9%—and the U.S. has now lost 33.5 million jobs

Around 3.2 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims in the week ending May 2, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That brings the total unemployment claims over the past seven weeks to a staggering 33.5 million.

Before this seven-week stretch of 33.5 million initial jobless claims, there were already 7.1 million unemployed Americans as of March 13. When those figures are combined, it equals more than 40 million unemployed, or a real unemployment rate of 24.9%. That’s higher than the Great Depression peak of an unemployment rate topped 25.6%.

While the 3.2 million initial unemployment claims are down from the prior week’s 3.8 million, they are still almost five times the previous record from October 1982 of 695,000 claims. That former record has been topped for seven weeks straight.

On Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will release the April unemployment rate, which a White House advisor thinks could be between 16% to 20%. But this jobless rate will just be through mid-April and will exclude the 7 million jobless claims over the past two weeks. It is not until May that it will likely go above 20%.

And the BLS official unemployment rate may remain well under the real unemployment rate through this crisis. Only out-of-work Americans who are searching for new positions are categorized as unemployed. And many Americans are choosing to wait out the virus and stay-at-home order before starting their search.

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