Record 6.65 mn seek jobless benefits in US

Washington, Apr 2 (efe-epa).- A record 6.65 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week in the United States due to the major economic disruptions triggered by the novel coronavirus, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The amount of people filing initial unemployment-insurance claims (a proxy for layoffs) in the week ended March 28 was more than double the previous week’s upwardly revised level of 3.3 million.

As in the week ended March 21, accommodation and food services once again was the economic sector hardest-hit by the response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, which leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases with nearly 217,000.

As part of that response, states across the US have ordered non-essential businesses to suspend their operations and imposed stay-at-home measures in a bid to limit social contact and contain the spread of Covid-19.

The four-week moving average for jobless claims rose last week to 2.61 million, an increase of 1.6 million from the previous week’s revised average.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (continued claims) during the week ended March 21 stood at 3.03 million, an increase of 1.2 million from the previous week’s revised figure and the highest level for insured unemployment since July 6, 2013 (3.1 million), the department said.

The insured unemployment figure is an indicator that tracks people who have already filed an initial claim and experienced at least one week of unemployment before filing a continued claim.

Economists are forecasting that the coronavirus crisis will trigger a recession in the world’s largest economy in 2020, a year after the US’s gross domestic product rose a moderate 2.3 percent.

A record $2 trillion stimulus package approved by Congress last week is now being counted on to help provide a boost to the US economy, which had grown at a modest but sustained clip since the end of the so-called Great Recession in the summer of 2009.

The Labor Department said that in reporting their data states “continued to identify increases related to the services industries broadly, again led by accommodation and food services.”

It added that “many states continued to cite the health care and social assistance and manufacturing industries” as suffering heavy job losses, “while an increasing number of states identified the retail and wholesale trade and construction industries.”

As startling as the formal initial claims figure is, the real number seeking assistance could be significantly higher considering that many people who have lost their jobs in recent weeks have had difficulty applying for unemployment benefits because the flood of claims has resulted in more web traffic and phone calls than agencies can handle.

The massive economic impact of the coronavirus crisis was first seen last week when unemployment-insurance claims surged by a whopping 3 million from the previous week to 3,283,000 (subsequently revised upward to 3,307,000), far surpassing the previous mark for initial weekly jobless claims – 695,000 in October 1982. EFE-EPA


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