The ranks of Americans filing for unemployment swelled in the first week of April, with 6.6 million seeking jobless benefits. That brings the total number of Americans on unemployment to 16.8 million in just a month, experts say, wiping out nearly all the jobs gained under both Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.
About 6.6 million people filed for unemployment in the week ended April 4, the U.S. Department of Labor said on Thursday. Unemployment claims, reported weekly, are a barometer for the job market because they indicate how many workers have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Under Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump, the economy had added about 18.3 million jobs. Over the last three weeks, the economy has suffered 16.8 million layoffs, according to High Frequency Economics.
The latest unemployment claims are “absolutely stunning,” said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and an expert on unemployment insurance, by email.
“In just three weeks, COVID-19 has triggered a jobs crisis that is truly unthinkable in its scale and scope, stretching from coast-to-coast and impacting service jobs that once seemed immune to economic ups and downs,” Stettner said.
Economists say that crisis is likely to intensify. Oxford Economics expects as many as 30 million U.S. job losses stemming from the virus — that would be three times the number of jobs that disappeared after the housing crash.
Waiting for jobless pay
Many workers are still waiting for their jobless claims, with many state systems struggling to handle the historic surge in unemployment applications. Typically, unemployment benefits arrive within two to three weeks.
But workers who have lost their jobs during the past month have told CBS MoneyWatch it’s been a struggle to reach their unemployment offices because of the competing crush of other out-of-work employees.
For the 10 million workers who had filed for jobless benefits for the two weeks ended March 28, just over half have had their applications processed, Stettner estimates.
“Over the next few weeks, the total amount of jobless claims could eventually soar as high as 20 million, if not higher,” noted Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, in a client note ahead of the jobless claims report. “This jobless claim release will give a sense of how far the unemployment rate will surge.”
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s unemployment rate was 3.5%, a 50-year low. But many economists think unemployment has jumped into the mid-teens — that would be much higher than the 10% peak jobless rate during the financial crisis.
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