A record 6.6 million Americans have filed unemployment claims

Janet Nguyen Apr 2, 2020
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Nearly 10 million Americans have filed unemployment claims over the past couple of weeks. diego_cervo/Getty Images

A record 6.6 million Americans have filed unemployment claims

Janet Nguyen Apr 2, 2020
Nearly 10 million Americans have filed unemployment claims over the past couple of weeks. diego_cervo/Getty Images

This post was updated on April 2 at 12:31 p.m. Eastern time.

More than 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims in the past week, the largest number on record.

*Figures have been seasonally adjusted.

About 3.3 million people filed claims for the week ending March 21, which means in total, about 10 million people have filed for unemployment claims over the past two weeks. Over the past five years, claims had averaged about 250,000 a week.

The largest number on record prior to the week of March 21 was during a week in October 1982, when about 695,000 people filed for unemployment.

With the COVID-19 crisis causing businesses to shutter and workers to be laid off, President Donald Trump has signed into law a $2 trillion economic relief package that will include direct checks and expanded unemployment benefits for Americans.

California was the state with the highest overall number of unemployment claims last week, at more than 878,000.

*Figures have not been seasonally adjusted. Week of March 28 claims are “advance” claims, which are reported by the state liable for paying the unemployment compensation. Meanwhile, previous weeks’ reported claims reflect claimants by state of residence.

On March 19, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million California residents to stay at home, in one of the country’s strictest lockdown measures. At the end of that week (the week ending March 21), California had nearly 130,000 layoffs in the service industry, according to the Labor Department.

Between the week of March 21 and the week of March 28, the number of claims in the state jumped over 371 percent.

New York also reported high numbers, with the number of unemployment claims at roughly 366,000. The state is the U.S. epicenter of COVID-19 and has about 84,000 cases.

Several Southern states topped the list of states with the highest percentage increase.

* Figures have not been seasonally adjusted. Calculations based on the percentage increase between advance claims for week ending March 28, and week ending March 21.

“Some states have been more aggressive than others imposing restrictions … which means the economic impacts will be uneven in their timing across the country,” wrote Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate, in an emailed statement.

The number of cases in Georgia jumped by about 990%, from over 12,000 cases during the week of March 21, to over 132,000 cases for the week of March 28.

On Wednesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he would sign a shelter-in-place order, a decision that he says comes after he received “game-changing” information from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention. The research shows that Georgia will reach peak hospital capacity in about three weeks, according to Kemp.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

Which states are reopening?

Many states have started to relax the restrictions put in place in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although social-distancing measures still hold virtually everywhere in the country, more than half of states have started to phase out stay-at-home orders and phase in business reopenings. Others, like New York, are on slower timelines.

Is it worth applying for a job right now?

It never hurts to look, but as unemployment reaches levels last seen during the Great Depression and most available jobs are in places that carry risks like the supermarket or warehouses, it isn’t a bad idea to sit tight either, if you can.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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