A record 6.6 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the U.S. economy.
That more than doubles the then-record 3.3 million Americans who filed initial claims two weeks ago, according to data that was released by the Department of Labor last week. Thursday’s updated numbers also show last week’s report was revised up by 24,000 people.
“States continued to identify increases related to the services industries broadly, again led by accommodation and food services. However, state comments indicated a wider impact across industries,” according to the report, which also cited health care and social assistance, manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade and construction as among the industries most heavily affected.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the record number of initial claims filed in a single week sat at 695,000, reached in October 1982.
Thursday’s 6.6 million claims are nearly 10 times that amount.
“Taken together, more than 1 in 20 American workers have been forced on the virtual unemployment line in the last two weeks alone – and even that is an underestimate, as it accounts for only those people who have filed for benefits and had their claims processed,” Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said in a statement on Thursday.
Meanwhile, separate data published Thursday by outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas show formal job cuts spiked 292% in March from the month prior. Employers last month cut more jobs than they had in any single month since the Great Recession, and analysts widely predict more announcements are on the way.
The latest U.S. unemployment rate sat at 3.5% in February but will unquestionably spike when the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes its March jobs numbers on Friday. Analysts have predicted unemployment climbing into double digits by the time the coronavirus pandemic peaks, with Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President and CEO James Bullard predicting a rate as high as 30%.
“It’s clear that increasing numbers of employers cannot or will not keep employees on their payrolls, as stay-at-home orders shutter storefronts and squelch economic demand,” Stettner said. “Now, over the next several months, unemployment checks will play a more critical role than ever could have been imagined in the lives of families and the economy.”
Andrew Soergel, Senior Writer, Economics
Andrew Soergel is a senior writer covering economics for U.S. News & World Report. He joined … Read more