Unemployment Hits Record High as 4.4 Million Workers File Jobless Claims

BY TOM OZIMEK

More than 4.4 million workers in the United States filed unemployment claims during the week ending April 18, while the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate surged to a record high of 11.0 percent, Labor Department figures show.

The data released on April 23 (pdf) shows that the number of people filing initial jobless claims for the week ending April 18 was 4,427,000, while the insured unemployment rate for the week ending April 11 grew by 2.8 percent from the previous week’s rate.

“This marks the highest level of the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate in the history of the seasonally adjusted series,” the Labor Department said, also noting that “the COVID-19 virus continues to impact the number of initial claims and insured unemployment.”

The previous insured unemployment rate was 8.2 percent for the week ending April 4, which, when announced last week, broke the previous record of 7.0 percent set in May of 1975.

While the newly announced 4.43 million jobless claims number is lower than the record-setting 6.9 million claims filed during the week ending March 29, it brings the total unemployment claims filed in the last five weeks to an astounding 26 million, wiping out all jobs created since the 2008 financial crisis and then some.

The longest-ever employment boom in U.S. history started in September 2010 and added some 22 million jobs. It was cut short in February of this year by a shutdown of much of the economy alongside strict social-distancing measures in response to the outbreak of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.

“The U.S. economy is hemorrhaging jobs at a pace and scale never before recorded,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “It compares to a natural disaster on a national scale.”

The new jobless claims report comes on the heels of dismal data last week showing a record drop in retail sales in March and the biggest decline in factory output since 1946.

Roughly 95 percent of the U.S. population is now under stay-at-home orders, and many factories, restaurants, stores, and other businesses are closed or have seen sales shrivel.

As a once-vibrant economy has been brought to a standstill by measures to curb the spread of the virus, while surging unemployment and other dismal economic data have fueled tensions. In at least 10 states so far, rallies have been held to protest lockdowns that have upended nearly every aspect of the day-to-day lives of Americans.

“My anxiety is through the roof right now, not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Laura Wieder, who was laid off from her job managing a now-closed sports bar in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

The mounting economic fallout almost certainly signals the onset of a global recession, with job losses that are likely to dwarf those of the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

Speaking at a virtual question-and-answer session on April 15, International Monetary Fund head Kristalina Georgieva said that the outbreak “is a crisis like no other” and that it has sparked the worst global recession since the Great Depression.

Still, in her remarks, the IMF head struck a hopeful note, insisting the crisis will eventually pass and urging governments to adjust policies to give economies the best chance for a quick bounce back.

The Trump administration has also sought ways to safely restart business activity. One such move to support reopening the economy is coordination of efforts between the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local governments to ramp up contact tracing.

In a call with state governors on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence said that the CDC will be sending rotating teams “dedicated exclusively to coronavirus surveillance” to all 50 states and territories, according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC News.

“We’re going to deploy specific coronavirus teams on a 12-month, 18-month rotation to each and every state and that information should be reaching your state—those personnel—this week,” Pence told governors, the report said.

The initiative is one of the first large-scale federal actions to enhance contact tracing efforts in states and territories.

Health officials and experts have said repeatedly that contact tracing is a key part of efforts to limit the scale of future outbreaks when restrictions are lifted and, as such, tracing is a critical component of plans to restart business activity.

Among moves to help distressed workers, the $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27 gives states more flexibility to extend unemployment compensation.

Still, many economists believe there is still more downside for the labor market.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM

Republished with Permission The Epoch Times    SUBSCRIBE


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