A record 3.3 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the past week as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has ground the economy of the United States to a halt. A news release by the Department of Labor revealed that jobless claims rose by more than 3 million in the past week, with 281,000 filing claims just seven days ago. This new number is the highest that has ever been reported, with the previous record of 695,000 from the week of October 2, 1982, paling in comparison.
The release reveals the earliest effects of the economic downturn that the United States is currently facing as measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 have been put in place throughout the country, closing businesses and preventing social gatherings. Following the news, Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia released a statement addressing the jump in claims.
“This large increase in unemployment claims was not unexpected, and results from the recognition by Americans across the country that we have had to temporarily halt certain activities in order to defeat the coronavirus. The hard impact of this on American workers was anticipated in the bill passed by the Senate last night, which provides hundreds of billions of dollars in unprecedented funding for traditional unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance, and one-time cash payments of $1200 or more to Americans making $75,000 or less ($150,000 for those who are married).”
Scalia also pointed out the Senate bill’s incentives to businesses to keep employees on their payroll, in an effort to encourage a faster return to the economy that existed only a few weeks ago, until conditions normalize.
Unemployment has hit hardest in regions dealing with the most COVID-19 cases. In New York City, which currently accounts for about 5 percent of the global coronavirus cases, unemployment claims have jumped 1,000 percent, per The Guardian.
Prior to the release of the unemployment figures, efforts were made by the Department of Labor and Trump administration to block the release of daily unemployment figures, citing “fast-changing economic conditions.” Ohio and South Carolina were among the states that complied with the order and embargoed their release until after the national figures were made available.
As of publishing, there are 55,233 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the past week, deaths have jumped, rising to 802 from the 302 recorded last weekend. Despite the rising death toll, President Donald Trump has been confident in recent days that the country will open and return to normal by “Easter.”