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

New COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. How are Americans reacting?

Johns Hopkins University reports the seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday  — a record — eclipsing the previous record hit in late July during the second, summer wave of infection. A funny thing is happening with consumers though: Even as COVID-19 cases rise, Americans don’t appear to be shying away from stepping indoors to shop or eat or exercise. Morning Consult asked consumers how comfortable they feel going out to eat, to the shopping mall or on a vacation. And their willingness has been rising. Surveys find consumers’ attitudes vary by age and income, and by political affiliation, said Chris Jackson, who heads up polling at Ipsos.

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

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