FARGO — The staggering rise in the number of people filing initial unemployment claims in the U.S. and North Dakota since the start of the coronavirus pandemic continues its upward trajectory, with the state number now above 67,000 and the figure nationwide reaching more than 33 million.
The 3.2 million jobless claims filed last week brings the nationwide total since the pandemic started to about 33.5 million, which represents about 21% of the nation's labor force in March, according to a CNN.com report, which said an official unemployment rate for April is expected Friday from the U.S. Labor Department.
A recent Wall Street Journal report cited a survey of economists who estimate the official number will show U.S. unemployment rose to 16.1% in April.
According to numbers released Thursday, May 7, by Job Service North Dakota, 4,790 people filed unemployment claims last week, which helped push the total number of claims filed since March 16 to more than 67,000.
The latter number is roughly 17% of North Dakota's labor force, though that is not an official unemployment rate.
North Dakota anticipates the state's official April unemployment rate will be released May 22.
Minnesota reported Thursday that about 625,000 unemployment claims have been filed in the state since March 16. That's about 20% of the state's labor force, though that rate is not an official unemployment rate.
Economic fallout from COVID-19 has created job losses not seen since the Great Depression, when the U.S. unemployment rate reached about 25% in 1933.
David Flynn, a professor of economics at the University of North Dakota, said Thursday that while unemployment rates appear to be approaching Depression-era levels, how the country got to those levels in the 1930s was different than what is happening today.
"The economy is, I think, in a different situation going into it," Flynn said, referring the current crisis.
He noted that a recent survey of people out of work because of the pandemic indicates roughly three out of four surveyed think their jobs will come back once the country fully reopens for business.
However, Flynn said, what isn't known at this point is how many jobs that existed precrisis will be available after. Nor, he added, is it clear how many workers will want to go back to doing what they did before even if their former jobs are available.
How quickly the American economy picks up from where it left off will likely vary by region, according to Flynn.
"I think we're going to see a lot of different responses around the country and that's going to make a lot of the generalizations very difficult," Flynn said.
Numbers released by Job Service North Dakota Thursday show the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction category saw the most unemployment filings last week with 888, followed by 670 in the manufacturing sector and 504 in the health care and social assistance category.