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Stunning Report: 6.6M Applied for Unemployment Last Week

That doubles the record set a week earlier
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 2, 2020 7:51 AM CDT

(Newser) – More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, doubling a record high set just one week earlier—a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus. The stunning report Thursday from the Labor Department showed that job cuts are mounting: The figure for last week is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week. The surging layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15% this month, above the previous record of 10.8% set during a deep recession in 1982, reports the AP. More:

  • Congress significantly expanded the unemployment benefits system in last week's $2.2 trillion economic rescue package. That legislation added $600 a week in jobless aid, on top of what recipients receive from their states. This will enable many lower-income workers to manage their expenses and even increase their purchasing power and support the economy.
  • About 26 states allow workers with reduced hours to claim benefits. Most economists support doing so because it encourages companies to cut back on hours rather than lay off workers. Any program that encourages companies to maintain connections with their workers can help the economy rebound faster after the virus outbreak is contained.
  • Typically, people who receive jobless aid are required to actively look for a new job and to document their searches. But Congress has passed other legislation that encourages states to drop that requirement, given that so many businesses are closed and most Americans have been ordered to stay mostly at home.
  • Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said this week that just 6% of companies surveyed by Moody's say they’re hiring—down dramatically from 40% in the weeks preceding the coronavirus outbreak. The plunge in hiring underscores the difficulty that anyone out of work would have finding a new job.
  • On Friday, the government will issue the March jobs report, which economists forecast will show a loss of 145,000 jobs. That report is based on data gathered mostly before the spike in layoffs began two weeks ago. Though relatively small, that loss would still end a record 113-month streak of job growth.
  • Numerous state unemployment agencies have struggled to keep up with the flood of applications for jobless benefits. New York's Labor Department asks people to file on different days depending on their last names. Monday, for example, is reserved for those last names that start with A through F.
(Read more unemployment stories.)

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