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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

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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