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Unemployment claims soared to 3.3 million last week, most in history

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A record number of Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week, as businesses shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Initial jobless claims soared to a seasonally adjusted 3.28 million in the week ended March 21, according to the Department of Labor.

That is the highest number of initial jobless claims in history, since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in 1967. The previous high was 695,000 claims filed in the week ending October 2, 1982.

“Most historical comparisons of this scale are inadequate.The closest would be natural disasters like major hurricanes. However, as today’s report shows, the coronavirus outbreak is economically akin to a major hurricane occurring in every state around the country for weeks on end,” Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao wrote in emailed comments.

Last week’s jump marked a massive increase from a revised 282,000 claims in the prior week. Prior to the pandemic, initial claims had been hovering in the low 200,000s each week, reflecting a strong job market.

But in the last couple weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has forced many businesses to suddenly shut down as the country tries to slow the spreading virus. For many businesses that also means laying off or furloughing workers, at least temporarily.

That is the key difference between the coronavirus shock compared with past periods of economic distress: it is sudden and impacts virtually every industry and business model around.

As a result, economists are expecting millions of job losses in the coming weeks.

Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist for the US Department of Labor who is now with the Economic Policy Institute, called the surge in unemployment claims just the tip of the iceberg.

“We estimate that by summer, 14 million workers will lost their jobs due to the coronavirus shock,” she said in a tweet.

Economists now expect the US economy to fall into a recession in the second quarter, before staging a comeback later in the year after the spread of the virus slows.

Meanwhile, state labor departments across the country are have struggled to deal with the sudden influx in claims for unemployment benefits. The New York Labor Department, for example, has added server capacity and hired more than 65 additional staff to handle all the claims that are suddenly pouring in. And last week, Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity said it planned to hire 100 extra staff to help answer calls and walk people through the application process.

Speaking later on Thursday morning, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin downplayed last week’s surge in unemployment claims in an interview with CNBC, calling the numbers “not relevant” because they pre-dated an economic relief bill passed by Congress on Wednesday. That bill includes support for workers, including checks from the government and expanded unemployment benefits.

He added businesses “hopefully will be able to hire back a lot of those people.”

Coronavirus / News

CNN

Comments

12 Comments

  1. While this is high, the market believes the bailout will cover it and this will be a short term situation.

    I’d bet that’s true at 60%. However, if it turns out the jobs market suffers significant damage, the recovery will be longer. Depending on that and how scared people are to leave their homes, it could be a lot longer. We still have to play it smart.

    1. So Sad that someone would want this President to fail, just to make themself feel good, no matter the price to the people of the world. I would hope that most would want Trump to succeed to the fullest degree. You are the epitome of a narcissist. BOO HOO to you, and your sad existence.

      1. I’ve hidden nothing about my disdain for Trump, since I think he only acts in his interests, but I desperately _need_ him to succeed, pretty please, with sugar on. I am begging him to succeed. He can even have another term.

        Of course, we started off by doing the wrong thing immediately which led to all kinds of trouble, so thank you so much, Mr. President, for your so-called leadership on that. Someone actually talented would have saved us a lot of trouble.

      2. LOL!! Remember when big fat lyin donnie’s number one cheerleader, rush limburger, in a fit of racist rage said he hoped president Obama would fail to save the country from the great recession!!! Awesome!!! soooooo patriotic that emporer bonespurs gave the big fat lying prescription drug addict ther medal of honor, but of course hated John McCain.

    1. Sad that one would take a global crisis (from China) as a tool to mock the American people- didn’t Martha tell you- Grandma is dying- and all you care about is political statements.

      There are a lot of haters like you that congregate here- feral pigs wallowing in their own fecal matter.

      Oink !

      1. Wishy, what happened? Did God come to you in a vision and told you to show a little compassion? Or maybe someone else wrote the first sentence for you and you forgot to proof.

      2. Really seeing that curve flatten now!!!ROTFLMAO!!!! Big fat lyin donnie no longer using the term hoax??? what happened??? Are you still sewing masks sweetie??? Just so you know the trump virus is nothing compared to windmill cancer!!! Golf and a hooker anyone!!!

  2. Several years of very low unemployment means all that money from paychecks and companies going into the unemployment fund should be ready for the new situation… No?

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