Record 3.3 Million US Workers Make Jobless Benefit Claims
March 26, 2020
A record 3.3 million U.S workers filed for unemployment compensation
last week as thousands of businesses shut their doors or curtailed
operations in the face of the deadly coronavirus and laid off their
employees, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
The wave of claims by the newly unemployed has overwhelmed some state
agencies that handle the paperwork, with the jobless workers forced to
wait hours in line at offices or online if they were filing
electronically. Jobless claim websites in some states, including New
York and Oregon, crashed.
The vast number of claims easily surpassed the previous one-week record
in the U.S. — 695,000 in 1982 as the U.S. battled high inflation at the
Economists say the huge number of new unemployment insurance claims is
just one indication of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus.
Some suggest the U.S. might already be in a recession, even if the
technical definition of a recession, two straight quarters of declining
growth, is not met.
Last week’s jobless benefit claims could be an indicator of millions
more to come as many businesses are reassessing their plans by the day.
They are faced with the question of whether to continue to pay employees
when they have little or no work to do as would-be customers stay home
in self-isolation to avoid public contact with others who might have
contracted the virus.
Normally, laid-off workers claiming unemployment compensation are paid a
fraction of their regular salaries, a sort of stop-gap personal funding.
But the massive $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package that was approved
by the U.S. Senate late Wednesday includes $250 billion for bigger
jobless payments that will benefit the newly unemployed at a time when
the U.S. economy, the world’s largest, is facing unparalleled
Senate Unanimously Passes Massive Economic Relief Bill
Senate minority leader says legislation 'could make the difference in
the next few months between putting food on the table and going hungry,
between surviving this period of unemployment and financial ruin'
The legislation, when likely approved Friday by the House of
Representatives and signed into law by President Donald Trump, extends
jobless insurance from 26 to 39 weeks and increases the payouts to the
jobless by $600 a week for four months above what states would normally
pay the unemployed.
In addition, for the first time, freelancers and gig workers, such as
Uber drivers, will be eligible.