Unemployment claims could spike to 3.4 million: study

Unemployment claims could spike to 3.4 million: study

Weekly initial unemployment claims are on track to spike to a historic 3.4 million for the third week of March, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

If the number jumps to that level when the weekly report comes out Thursday, it will far surpass the highest level of weekly initial claims on record.

"This will dwarf every other week in history, as can be seen by comparing the projection against the trend in initial claims back to 1967," the study's authors wrote.

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The last unemployment claims report already saw claims increase by about a third to 281,000, but steps to combat the coronavirus epidemic have ratcheted up dramatically since the period covered by that report.

Late last week, Goldman Sachs predicted that the new claims would spike to 2.25 million, but the EPI count of state-level claims from 35 states and Washington, D.C., already surpassed that figure. 

The analysis gives a glimpse of the severe economic downturn the nation faces as a result of the coronavirus and the measures to contain it, which have shuttered businesses and prevented people from gathering in large crowds. 

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard told Bloomberg News this week he expects unemployment to hit 30 percent in the second quarter, while Morgan Stanley estimated that unemployment would average 12.8 percent over that time period. 

Congress is furiously negotiating a package to help businesses keep people on their payrolls and expand unemployment benefits, a key point, according to the EPI study's authors.

"The true impacts are undoubtedly of larger scale than described here. Further, unemployment insurance benefits replace less than half of families’ usual income," they noted.