Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released the following statement after the Department of Labor reported that 1.9 million workers filed regular first-time unemployment claims (not seasonally adjusted) for the week ending May 23. An additional 1.2 million filed for benefits under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for gig workers and others. In total, 3.1 million people filed new unemployment claims. (The seasonally adjusted regular UI claims number was 2.1 million.)

This is the 10th week in a row that new unemployment claims have exceeded two million.

“Even as the country begins to reopen,” said Congressman Beyer, “the economy continues to hemorrhage jobs. In fact, for 10 straight weeks new unemployment claims have been far worse than anything on record.

“Reopening the economy too soon will not be the recession remedy that Republicans expect it will be if Americans are still afraid for their lives because the coronavirus is not yet contained. A recent study found that statewide social distancing orders only account for a quarter of the unemployment insurance claims filed between March 14 and April 4 and that a collapse in consumer confidence, self-imposed social distancing and supply chain disruptions account for the rest.

“Although President Trump continues to lie about his response to the pandemic being better than it has, we all know the truth—over 100,000 Americans are dead and over 40 million have lost their jobs.”

Last week, JEC Democrats released a report titled “Reopening Too Soon Will Have Steep Economic Costs.” As the report explains, Americans oppose businesses prematurely returning to normal operations by wide margins. One poll found that over two in three Americans would not feel comfortable in a retail store, while three in four would not feel comfortable in a restaurant. Another poll found that 81 percent of Americans would not feel safe returning to the workplace if their state reopens.

JEC Democrats also released an issue brief last week that explains why using the not seasonally adjusted number of unemployment claims filed each week—instead of the seasonally adjusted number—makes the most sense during a period of massive layoffs.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Previously, Beyer served as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.