Without those adjustments — which economists use to account for seasonal hiring fluctuations — the raw number was 3.5 million.
After peaking at 6.9 million in the last week of March, claims have fallen each of the last four weeks — an encouraging sign that at least things aren’t getting worse.
But overall, joblessness remains a dire problem. Friday marks May 1, and for millions of Americans, rents and mortgage payments will be due. Unemployment benefits are one of the key forms of financial aid that are helping families plug the gap.
“A number in the low millions may be a relief compared to earlier this month, but it’s objectively a horrifying statistic,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab.
Not all claims result in paid benefits.
Continued jobless claims, representing workers who filed for their second week of benefits or more, stood at nearly 18 million in the week ended April 25, after seasonal adjustments, up from 15.8 million in the prior week, the Department of Labor said.
So far, Hawaii, Kentucky and Georgia have seen the largest percentages of their labor forces file for first-time jobless benefits. About 29% of workers in Hawaii have filed first-time unemployment claims since March 14, as its tourism industry has come to a standstill.
Looking ahead to a historically weak jobs report
Next week, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its official jobs report for April.
That report is expected to show the US unemployment rate surged to 14% in April. That would be the highest since the monthly data series began in 1948. During the Great Depression, annual estimates show the unemployment rate peaked at 24.9% in 1933.
The nation’s official unemployment rate is estimated from a survey of about 60,000 households — not the number of unemployment claims. To be counted as “unemployed” in that report, survey respondents need to have been out of work but available to work, and actively searched for a job in the prior four weeks.
How high the jobless rate will go and how long it will take to come down again will depend on the shape and pace of the economic recovery.