Pandemic Continues to Stifle Economy as 4.4 Million More Seek Jobless Aid
WASHINGTON – Just over 4.4 million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to tame it continue to batter the U.S. economy.
The Labor Department said Thursday that 4,427,000 Americans applied for benefits between April 12 and 18, bringing to the total number of people who have lost jobs since the pandemic took hold in mid-March to about 26 million.
Though the rate of filing claims actually dipped last week — the daunting numbers are likely to continue to stir debate over when and how to lift stay-at-home orders and business closures and get the nation back to work.
Overall, last week’s initial claims for unemployment insurance were down 8,000 from a revised total of 5,237,000 claims filed the previous week.
The painful economic consequences of the virus-related shutdowns have sparked angry protests in several state capitals from crowds demanding that businesses reopen.
Just about every major industry has absorbed sudden and severe layoffs. Economists at the Federal Reserve estimate that hotels and restaurants have shed the most jobs — 4 million since Feb. 15. That is nearly one-third of all the employees in that industry.
Construction has shed more than 9% of its jobs. So has a category that includes retail, shipping and utilities, the Fed estimated. A category that is made up of data processing and online publishing has cut 4.7%.
Some governors have begun easing restrictions despite warnings from health authorities that it may be too soon to do so without sparking new infections.
The total number of people who are receiving unemployment benefits has reached a record 16 million, surpassing a previous high of 12 million set in 2010, just after the 2008-2009 recession ended.
In some states, many laid-off workers have run into obstacles in trying to file applications for benefits. Among them are millions of freelancers, contractors, gig workers and self-employed people — a category of workers who are now eligible for unemployment benefits for the first time.
When the government issues the April jobs report on May 8, economists expect it to show breathtaking losses. Economists at JP Morgan are predicting a loss of 25 million jobs. That would be nearly triple the total lost during the entire Great Recession period.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
In The News
WASHINGTON - The Department of Labor’s apprenticeship programs benefit individuals seeking to master skills while gainfully employed, and provides employers with the talent needed to fill the current workforce shortage, according to two Congressmen yesterday. Apprenticeships differ from paid internships in that they are not temporary,... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week but remained high by historical standards. Applications for benefits declined 111,000 from the previous week to a seasonally adjusted 730,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It is the lowest figure since late... Read More
WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced he's picked Kiran Ahuja to be his director of the Office of Personnel Management. If confirmed, Ahuja would be the first South Asian and first Asian American woman to lead the agency. Ahuja served for a little more... Read More
WASHINGTON -- A congressional subcommittee tried to assess the well-being and mental health of its own workforce Thursday after a year that one of its members described as “like drinking from a firehose while in freefall.” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-N.Y., was talking about how the COVID-19... Read More
The National Restaurant Association is urging Congress not to increase the federal minimum wage as part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. The association said in a letter sent to congressional leaders Tuesday that fast-tracking a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour... Read More
As panicked Americans cleared supermarkets of toilet paper and food last spring, grocery employees gained recognition as among the most indispensable of the pandemic's front-line workers.A year later, most of those workers are waiting their turn to receive COVID-19 vaccines, with little clarity about when that... Read More