Written by Michelle Hunter (News Writer)
Just before the pandemic hit, we’d get 200,000 to 215,000 new unemployment claims every week, on average. Since mid-March, it’s been 20 to 30 times higher than that 16.9 million people have filed jobless claims since layoffs and shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading nationwide. Nearly one out of 10 people who had a job to go to before the pandemic doesn’t have one now. Thursday’s weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department, the most timely data on the economy’s health, strengthens economists’ expectations of job losses of up to 20 million in April and their conviction that the economy is in deep recession. It also underscored an urgent need for more fiscal stimulus to halt the free fall, economists said.The record unemployment insurance claims numbers are the result of businesses such as restaurants, bars and other social venues being shuttered as states and local governments implement tough measures to control the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. President Donald Trump, who built his record for the past three years in office around economic growth and job growth, has now seen gains from much of the past decade evaporate in a matter of weeks. An official U.S. jobless rate that sat at 3.5% in February is poised to top 10% in April alone, eclipsing the peak of the last recession. At some point — and we don’t know exactly when the economy will bounce back, at least partially. When it does, that new normal will be different. Many Americans may be worse off than they were before, some people may still be afraid to resume their lives as they once lived them, and many businesses may have permanently closed. “There will likely be some permanent damage inflicted on the economy,” says Greg Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics. “What this shock is doing is exacerbating pre existing inequality issues across the country. The individuals who have been hit the hardest are the individuals who were in the most precarious position to start with.” While it’s not possible to rule out a rapid and complete return to normalcy — a V-shaped recovery, in the economists’ lingo — most experts we spoke to consider it unlikely. Too much structural damage has been done, jobs and businesses lost that will never come back. Supply chains have been broken and need to be rebuilt.