Washington, Mar 26 (efe-epa).- A record 3.28 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week in the United States, as the drastic measures taken to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus triggered widespread layoffs, the Labor Department said Thursday.
That number was up by a whopping 3 million from the previous week and far surpassed the previous mark for initial weekly jobless claims – 695,000 in October 1982, according to a news release by the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The drastic rise in jobless claims for the week ended March 21 reflects the acceleration of layoffs over the past two weeks due to the closure of shopping malls, restaurants, play centers and movie theaters, as well as a collapse in demand for air travel.
Auto sales also have been plunging, while manufacturers have closed factories and laid off workers as they struggle to make loan payments and pay other fixed costs.
The jobless claims report reveals that the US industries hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis have been accommodation and food services, followed by transportation and warehousing and manufacturing industries.
The biggest increases in initial jobless claims occurred in Pennsylvania (from 15,439 to 378,908), Ohio (from 7,046 to 187,784) and California (from 57,606 to 186,809).
Jobless claims is an indicator that takes into account individuals who had a job, lost it and are actively looking for a new one. It does not include people who were already unemployed and, for various reasons, have abandoned the job search.
It also does not include those continuing to receive benefits after an initial week of aid, known as continuing claims (which stood at 1.8 million a week ago).
In addition, 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.
Some economists are forecasting that the unemployment rate may climb to 13 percent by the end of April or early May, exceeding the 10 percent jobless rate in October 2009, shortly after the end of the so-called Great Recession.
The huge job losses represent a major blow to the re-election hopes of President Donald Trump, who for months had touted a 50-year-low unemployment rate of around 3.6 percent as one of his administration’s biggest successes. EFE-EPA