• Thursday's report marked the 12th straight week of declining claims. It also brought total filings over a 14-week period to about 47 million.
  • Continuing claims, the aggregate total of people receiving unemployment benefits, totaled 19.5 million for the week that ended on June 13.
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Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, signaling that pandemic-induced layoffs remain highly elevated even as the US economy reopens.

US weekly jobless claims totaled 1.5 million in the week that ended Saturday, the Labor Department said on Thursday . That slightly exceeded the consensus economist estimate of 1.3 million, according to Bloomberg data.

In just a few months, total layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic surpassed the roughly 37 million Americans who filed for benefits during the 18-month-long Great Recession. Now, even though claims have consistently declined for 12 weeks in a row, they remain nearly double the 665,000 who filed for unemployment during the Great Recession's worst week.

Still, unemployment filings last week fell slightly from roughly 1.5 million in the previous week . The number of new filings has declined for 12 straight weeks.

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initial unemployment claims week ending 6 20 20
initial unemployment claims week ending 6 20 20
Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

Continuing claims, which represent the aggregate total of people receiving unemployment benefits, came in at 19.5 million for the week that ended on June 13, down from 20.5 million in the previous report.

The report comes amid other economic data showing early signs that a recovery may be underway in the US. Retail sales rebounded sharply in May, homeowners appear to be rushing back to the housing market , and business activity is recovering from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic. And, the May jobs report showed companies added 2.5 million payrolls.

But elevated jobless claims remain a worrying metric signaling that the labor market may not rebound as quickly or as consistently as hoped. Last week's report marked the smallest weekly decline since claims began falling in early April.

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"We were going to hit a plateau, we hit it last week," Robert Frick, an economist at the Navy Federal Credit Union, told Business Insider.

Claims have likely remained elevated as the impact of sweeping coronavirus-related shutdowns spread beyond the industries first hit, leading to second and third waves of layoffs even as state economies reopen, he said. Now, fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases and rising numbers in some states have increased upside risk to weekly claims.

Going forward, economists and industry watchers will continue to keep an eye on weekly jobless claims data to gauge the labor market's recovery. Next week, the Labor Department will release the June nonfarm payrolls report, which will give further information about the state of the recovery as the US reopens.

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