The latest data released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday, April 2, revealed that a record-breaking 6,648,000 people filed for unemployment during the week of March 28. ABC News reported that these claims from workers are added to the existing 3.28 million who filed for unemployment benefits just a week before. The two weeks combined bring new unemployment claims to a total of 9.95 million.
“In one line: No words for this,” Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson responded upon seeing the data.
The number of successful claims from the week of March 28 is an increase of more than 3 million over the week of March 21. The numbers mark a level of ruin that has never been seen before in the labor market. The staggering numbers also show the earliest impact on workers since the coronavirus outbreak began.
“What we are going through now dwarfs anything we’ve ever seen, including the worst weeks of the great recession. I have spent the last twenty years studying the labor market and have never seen anything like it,” wrote Heidi Shierholz, chief economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
After the first wave of layoffs, unemployment claims reached 3.28 million during the week of March 21. It was the highest count of initial claims since the Department of Labor began tracking data in 1967. The previous record was 695,000 claims filed during the week of October 2, 1982, according to CNN.
Before the coronavirus pandemic spread to the U.S., the unemployment rate was on the verge of reaching a 50-year low. Politico reports that job loss could easily surpass the 15 million jobs lost at the height of the Great Recession, which lasted for 18 months between 2007 and 2009.
The pandemic has forced businesses to close while federal and state governments order stay-in-place conditions, as well as social distancing requirements. Those in the service industry have been affected most. Department of Labor data showed that accommodation and food services were among the hardest hit. Health care, social assistance, retail, and construction were also among the industries impacted most by the coronavirus pandemic.
In February, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. Projections show the rate will grow upward of 10 percent in April. An unemployment rate greater than 10 percent will top the highest rate recorded during the Great Recession.
Over the past three years, President Donald Trump built his reputation and approval rating on economic growth and job growth. A strong economy and a low unemployment rate that was reached over the course of a decade have now disappeared in just a few weeks.