Economists warn jobless claims could top 1.5 million by next week

Economists warn jobless claims could top 1.5 million by next week
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U.S. unemployment claims could reach a record 1.5 million by next week as service industry workers are forced to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak, economists warned Thursday. 

The U.S. Labor Department reported that 281,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits the week of March 14 — a 70,000 jump from the week before, and 60,000 claims more than economists had expected. 

"State filings offices for Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut report claims filings this week are running six to 14 times higher than the same week last year," Conrad DeQuadros, senior economic advisor at Brean Capital in New York, told Reuters.

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"A quarter of all claims filings are in two states, New York and California. Given the preliminary reports for a few states, next Thursday's unemployment claims report could show an initial claims reading north of 1.5 million,” he added. 

On Monday alone, Massachusetts reported 19,884 claims, more than the total received in February. Pennsylvania reported 50,000 claims on Monday and even more than that on Tuesday, Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, told Reuters. 

"Many states reported that their employment websites crashed due to a surge in traffic, suggesting demand for unemployment benefits is even higher than the reported figures,” she said. 

On Thursday, Senate Republicans introduced a financial stimulus bill that would include direct financial help for every American, which could potentially ease the economic impact of virus. As written, the bill provides $1,200 for individuals who make up to $75,000 per year.