- U.S. workers filed 6,648,000 unemployment claims the week ending March 28, an increase of 3,341,000 over the previous week’s revised level — "the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series," according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
- The unemployment claims are largely attributed to companies closing or furloughing workers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Combined with the previous week’s level, nearly 10 million U.S. workers have filed for unemployment in the past few recorded weeks. Due to data lag, however, the numbers are likely to be even higher as states continue to process claims, Axios reported.
- "This is more than a 3,000% increase in three weeks. This kind of upending of the labor market in such a short time is unheard of," Heidi Shierholz, senior economist for the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), noted in an EPI statement.
Unemployment numbers and predictions have taken a stark turn in the past month as the spread of COVID-19 has prompted immediate action from governments and employers nationwide. The unemployment rate could jump as high as 30% in Q2 2020, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis noted in analysis published March 24 — meaning some 52.81 million people would be unemployed by the end of Q2.
Such analysis did not account for the newly passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that became law March 27, the Fed report noted. The bill provides small businesses and nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees almost $350 billion in partially forgivable loans, such as to cover payroll. The CARES Act is the third COVID-19-related aid package that President Trump has signed; the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed earlier in the month, mandating that employers with under 500 employees offer emergency paid leave and leave protection.
Another round of emergency relief is expected, largely focused on infrastructure, according to the National Skills Coalition (NSC). NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen urged Congress to focus its infrastructure efforts on the people in light of the job losses from the pandemic — especially since skill shortages had troubled infrastructure employers, such as construction, prior to the coronavirus’ appearance.
"If the new infrastructure package doesn’t solve that workforce challenge, it would delay construction of new projects and create jobs that too few people are qualified to fill," he said in an email statement. "It would provide no relief to the millions of our country’s restaurant, hospitality, retail workers (among others) who can’t access those jobs without a federal commitment to train them for those positions."
Retail and hospitality have been especially hard hit, though the pandemic has led to a mix of cuts and mass hiring to meet consumer demand (or lack thereof), according to analysis from Challenger, Gray & Christmas. In their report, retailers announced the third-highest amount of job cuts this year, but also reported the most hiring of any industry. Of retail’s announced plans to hire 550,010 so far this year, 462,010 of those hires occurred in March