COVID-19

Roughly 1 in 10 workers have lost their jobs in the past 3 weeks

Mitchell Hartman Apr 9, 2020
With a startling 6.6 million people seeking jobless benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark Joe Raedle/Getty Images
COVID-19

Roughly 1 in 10 workers have lost their jobs in the past 3 weeks

Mitchell Hartman Apr 9, 2020
With a startling 6.6 million people seeking jobless benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark Joe Raedle/Getty Images

With a startling 6.6 million people seeking jobless benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark — roughly 10% of workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks. It’s the largest and fastest string of job losses on record (to 1948).

California, New York, Michigan and Florida had the highest number of claims. And the actual number of Americans out of work or nearly so is almost surely higher. The volume of new claims for state unemployment benefits gives us a rough sense of the scale of job losses across the country.

One thing we do know about the number who have applied for unemployment insurance claims “is that it is less than the number of people who are out of work because of the virus,” said former Labor Department chief economist Heidi Shierholz.

For one thing, each state has different eligibility rules for claiming unemployment. Some make it hard to qualify if you didn’t work long enough or make enough in your previous job.

Until last week, most states weren’t accepting unemployment claims from people who don’t have traditional employers: gig workers, freelancers and the self-employed.

“So that includes anyone who is an independent contractor. They’re just like everyone else, seeing demand for their services totally bottom out,” Shierholz said.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program recently passed by Congress does extend benefits to these workers. We should see them surging into state unemployment systems in coming weeks.

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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