U.S. weekly jobless claims hit record once again

U.S. weekly jobless claims hit record once again

U.S. weekly jobless claims hit record once again

The last three weeks have marked one of the most devastating periods in history for the American job market, as first-time claims for unemployment benefits have surged more than 3,000% since early March.

That's double the number who sought unemployment benefits during the previous week, as the virus began to force businesses to close and lay off employees.

States indicated people from a wide array of industries - including restaurants, retail, trade and construction - sought unemployment benefits, showing the toll from the coronavirus is gripping a growing share of the USA economy. Layoffs are likely to continue in the weeks ahead. According to a paper published on Wednesday by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, only 10.5 percent of the state's unemployed workers collect benefits, the lowest percentage of any state.

"The level of need for unemployment benefits right now is far beyond anything we've ever seen in such a short time", said Gail Krumenauer, communications director at Oregon's labor department.

Last week's claims were more than quadruple the high of 5,634 new weekly claims set during the Great Recession in 2009.

The figure topped all analyst estimates and compared with a median projection of 3.76 million. Utah's 2.5 percent unemployment rate, on the other hand, will remain unchanged, while California's will rise from 3.9 percent to a somewhat manageable 6.7 percent.

The stunning report Thursday from the Labor Department showed that job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and overseas that have nearly certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses have shut down across the world.

"The U.S. labor market is in free-fall", said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in NY. "Enormous job losses could do tremendous long-lasting damage to the economy that would weaken any eventual recovery".

"Four years of jobs gains have evaporated in the span of two weeks", said Daniel Zhao, an economist at the jobs website Glassdoor.

Those numbers are based on a survey the USA government did of businesses and households in the middle of the month, before widespread lockdowns were in place.

The March jobs report, which is due Friday at 8:30 am ET, is not expected to look quite as dire.

The unemployment rate - which has been at a almost 50-year low of 3.5% - is expected to shoot up, with some estimates putting it at 15%.

This "tectonic shift" in the United States labor market "implied a real-time unemployment rate of 10.1% at a minimum", said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM.

The surging lay-offs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April.

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