Unemployment levels surged as 6.6 million Americans filed jobless claims in the past week.
Along with the 3.3 million workers who filed for unemployment in mid-March, the new figures show that roughly 10 million Americans in total are now out of work.
Workers have been hit hard by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, with various state governments banning public gatherings and shutting restaurants, theaters, gyms, and other businesses. The number of unemployment claims has exceeded even the dire predictions of economists, many of whom estimated 3.5 million Americans would file for unemployment this week, according to CNN.
“The speed and magnitude of the labor market’s decline is unprecedented,” Constance Hunter, chief economist at KPMG LLP, told the Wall Street Journal. Hunter now projects that roughly 20 million jobs will be lost in total during the coronavirus crisis.
The $2.2 trillion economic relief package hashed out by Congress and the Trump administration and signed on Friday allows independent contractors and self-employed workers to file for benefits, which increases the amount of workers eligible for unemployment. The amount of jobless claims in the coming weeks is also expected to remain high because local governments have not yet been able to process the sheer volume of claims.
“We’re expecting the biggest layoffs to occur for the type of worker it’s going to be most painful for,” namely low-skilled employees of small businesses, said Paige Ouimet, professor of finance at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, in comments to the Journal.