More than 5.2 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to new federal data showing the coronavirus crisis has put more than 22 million Americans out of work in a month.
That number which is bigger than the entire population of Florida, means more jobs have been lost in the last 30 days than were added to the economy since the end of the last downturn a decade ago or 21.5 million. “It is shocking to see this level of unemployment claims because the scale is comparable to the entire recovery over a decade following the Great Recession,” Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao told The Post.
The staggering unemployment numbers the US Department of Labor released Thursday indicate 13.5 percent of the American workforce has been sidelined as efforts to stem the pandemic have forced businesses to close their doors and lay off workers across the country.
The latest seasonally adjusted number of initial jobless claims slowed from the prior week’s total of 6.6 million even as it outpaced economists’ expectations for roughly 5.1 million. But last week’s figure would have been “unthinkable” before the coronavirus slammed the labor market, said Curt Long, chief economist and vice president of research at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions.
The most jobless claims filed in a single week before the recent spike was 695,000 in October 1982. “We’ve sort of unfortunately become accustomed to these numbers, and so I guess the first reaction is to see a drop of 20 percent and say ‘Wow, that’s a nice development,’” Long told The Post. Despite the nationwide drop, unemployment claims in New York jumped last week to an unadjusted 395,949 from 344,451 the prior week, the feds’ report shows.
The increase came as the state Labor Department revamped its unemployment application after some New Yorkers had to wait weeks to submit their claims. Experts say jobless claims could remain high in the coming weeks as states slog through backlogs of applications. The $2.2 trillion federal stimulus bill passed last month also expanded eligibility for benefits, which is also likely to put “upward pressure” on the number, according to Zhao.
Thursday’s report came on the heels of other signs that the coronavirus crisis has plunged the economy into a deep recession with more than nine in 10 Americans being told to stay at home under local lockdown measures. Retail sales plunged by a record 8.7 percent in March as factory output suffered its largest decline since the end of World War II, the feds revealed Wednesday.
Experts say the labor market faces a long road to recovery even though some companies have put their workers on furloughs, or temporary layoffs. Economists expect US payrolls to recover less than half the jobs they lost to the coronavirus crisis by the end of 2021, according to a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics. “Some of the job losses are temporary. But there’s no doubt that some companies of all sizes will fail,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, a financial-services firm.