Story at a glance

  • The Labor Department released much-anticipated data about the Americans who filed for unemployment last week as a result of the coronavirus.
  • The number of COVID-19-related deaths have now surpassed 1,000 in the United States alone, and the pandemic has forced many nonessential businesses to close with far-reaching implications for U.S. workers.
  • Over 3.28 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment last week according to the report — the highest number of initial jobless claims in recorded history.

The American people have been waiting for the past week with bated breath for what everyone sadly knew was coming: updated official data on how many lost their jobs last week. What many analysts didn’t predict, though, was just how high those numbers would end up being.

The Labor Department announced Thursday morning that more than 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the United States last week, well above the 1.5 million claims economists had expected, according to the median estimate of those surveyed by Bloomberg, or even the 2.25 million predicted by Goldman Sachs. It’s a twelvefold jump from the 281,000 unemployment claims filed just the week prior. 

The number shatters multiple past records, including the Great Recession peak of 665,000 in March 2009 and is more than quadruple the all-time high mark of 695,000 in October 1982 — now claiming the much-dreaded top spot for the highest number of initial jobless claims in history since the Labor Department began keeping records in 1967.

“This large increase in unemployment claims was not unexpected, and results from the recognition by Americans across the country that we have had to temporarily halt certain activities in order to defeat the coronavirus,” said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia in a statement


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“The hard impact of this on American workers was anticipated in the bill passed by the Senate last night, which provides hundreds of billions of dollars in unprecedented funding for traditional unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance, and one-time cash payments of $1,200 or more to Americans making $75,000 or less ($150,000 for those who are married). Perhaps more important, the Senate bill also provides incentives and funding for businesses to keep their workers on payroll, so that, as soon as possible, we can spring back to the strong economic conditions we enjoyed just weeks ago.”

The unemployment claims numbers confirm what most Americans already know: that layoffs hit the hospitality and food service industries hard as mandatory social distancing has forced restaurants and bars closed for business. Other industries that struggled included health care and social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing industries, the Labor Department said.

Yesterday, as referenced by Scalia, the Senate passed a $2 trillion plan to respond to the pandemic — the largest emergency relief package in U.S. history. The unprecedented rescue package passed 96 to 0 with bipartisan support and was officially announced mere hours before the Department of Labor released their numbers. 

It includes checks of $1,200 for more than 150 million households to be sent in the coming weeks, as well as enormous loans for large businesses and a separate well for small ones. Hospitals across the country, including those nearly filled to the brim in New York State, will receive a large boost in funding as well.


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Published on Mar 26, 2020