Jobless claims rose to a record-breaking 6.6 million last week, as the Labor Department reported, more than double the number of claims in the previous week, indicating more economic trouble from the pandemic.
The rush for claiming unemployment benefits occurred as the number of confirmed positive cases of coronavirus soared above 200,000 and the measures to counter the epidemic shut down large parts of the nation’s economy, with residents of 37 states now under orders to stay at home.
President Trump, who has spent the past three years in office touting the economic growth and job growth, has now seen gains from much of the past decade disappear in a month. The official U.S. jobless rate that was at 3.5% in February is now about to cross 10% in just April, surpassing the worst point of the last recession.
“In one line: No words for this,” Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson wrote in reaction to these statistics.
“What we are going through now dwarfs anything we’ve ever seen, including the worst weeks of the great recession,” tweeted Heidi Shierholz, chief economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “I have spent the last twenty years studying the labor market and have never seen anything like it.”
State unemployment offices are still struggling to meet the high volume of requests for unemployment benefits. They continue to suggest DOL’s weekly claims. But the figures significantly understate the real number of Americans seeking assistance.
“We’re hoping today’s reading will be the peak, but we can’t be sure,” Shepherdson of Pantheon wrote in an email. “In any event, total layoffs between the March and April payroll surveys look destined to reach perhaps 16 to 20 million, consistent with the unemployment rate leaping to 13 to 16 percent.”
“Today’s jobless report shows the grim reality of the coronavirus’ crippling effect on our economy and working families,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “The Department of Labor must move heaven and earth to — as quickly as possible — get the expanded unemployment benefits Congress passed last week into the pockets of workers who have lost their paychecks through no fault of their own. America’s workers and families cannot afford a delay.”