While the U.S. Department of Labor was today reporting 2,438,000 new unemployment insurance claims during the week ending May 16, bringing the nine-week total of claims during the COVID-19 pandemic to almost 39 million, two Washington, D.C., groups were reporting that U.S. billionaires got $434 billion richer in about the same time frame.
According to today’s report from the U.S. Department of Labor, the new jobless claims are down 249,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 294,000 from 2,981,000 to 2,687,000.
The Labor Department also reported that the advance seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for those claiming unemployment insurance benefits was 17.2 percent for the week ending May 9. The rate for the week ending May 2 was revised down from 15.7 to 15.5 percent.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits filed by former federal civilian employees totaled 1,723 in the week ending May 9, a decrease of 310 from the prior week. There were 1,076 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 176 from the preceding week.
The Labor Department reported that the highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending May 2 were in: Nevada, 23.5%; Michigan, 22.6%; Washington, 22.1%; Rhode Island, 19.9%; New York, 19.6%; Connecticut, 19.3%; Puerto Rico, 19.2%; Mississippi, 18.8%; Vermont, 18.8%; and Georgia, 18.5%.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending May 9 were in: Florida, up 48,222; Georgia, up 14,420; Washington, up 8,615; New York, up 4,309; and South Dakota, up 1,340.
The largest decreases were in: California, down 103,590; Texas, down 102,382; Oklahoma, down 54,806; North Carolina, down 28,602; and Missouri, down 21,382.
Connecticut reported 26,013 new claims for the week ended May 9, down 4,033 from the previous week’s 30,046 claims.
New York reported 226,521 new claims for the week ended May 9, an increase of 27,102 from the previous week’s 199,419 claims.
Just yesterday, the New York State Department of Labor reported that it has processed more than 2 million applications for unemployment benefits related to the pandemic and has paid out more than $10 billion in benefits. It also said that 7,580 applications remain in the backlog.
At the same time, the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, and the liberal group Americans for Tax Fairness have reported that U.S. billionaires saw their net worth grow by $434 billion between March 18 and May 19.
The organizations report having analyzed financial data from Forbes and found a 15% increase in the billionaires’ net worth from $2.948 trillion to $3.382 trillion.
The organizations said that the top five U.S. billionaires saw their wealth grow by a total of $75.5 billion, or 19%. Those five were named as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison. The figures showed that as a group, the five accounted for 21% of the total wealth growth of all billionaires in the last two months.
The organizations said that the fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg together grew by nearly $60 billion and that Forbes reported that in March there were 614 billionaires in the U.S., whereas two months later there were 630.
The organizations said Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, whose net worth in May was put at $65.5 billion, saw an increase of $12.8 billion from the $52.7 billion he had in March according to the Forbes figures. Michael Bloomberg’s wealth went up from $48 billion in March to $60.3 billion in May.
The organizations expressed criticism of a provision in the $2 trillion COVID-19 aid package from March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, that included tax breaks of approximately $135 billion that could be used by the wealthy.
“The pandemic has revealed the deadly consequences of America’s yawning wealth gap, and billionaires are the glaring symbol of that economic inequality,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness.