Jobless claims jump 2.4 million in mid-May — but the number is almost 1 million higher when federal filings are included

The numbers: More than 2.4 million unemployed Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week using the traditional method of reporting initial claims, but the real number was almost 1 million higher if applicants made eligible through a new federal relief program are included.

First-time filings for unemployment insurance totaled 2.44 million last week on the traditional seasonally adjusted basis. While still way above pre-coronavirus levels, new claims have declined for seven straight weeks following the apparent peak of 6.9 million seen in late March. 

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had been looking for 2.35 million new claims in the week ending May 16. 

The seasonally adjusted estimate is the number Wall Street has come to expect, but it has overstated jobless claims by several million during the coronavirus pandemic and has become less accurate.

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