More Than 3 Million Americans Filed for Unemployment Amid Coronavirus Crisis

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits skyrocketed to a history level during the week ending on March 21 as businesses across the country shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 3.28 million people filed jobless claims, more than any other week since the Department of Labor began tracking data in 1967.

The previous high mark was sent on Oct. 2, 1982, when 695,000 claims were filed, reports CNBC. During the Great Recession, jobless claims peaked at 665,000 claims in March 2009. Before this week's report and the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. economy was in good shape, and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell noted this was "not a typical downturn."

"At a certain point, we will get the spread of the virus under control," Powell said on the Today Show Thursday. "At that time, confidence will return, businesses will open again, people will come back to work. So you may well see a significant rise in unemployment, a significant decline in economic activity. But there can also be a good rebound on the other side of that."

At the state level, the jump in jobless claims for state unemployment programs week-over-week is hard to fathom. In Pennsylvania, claims jumped from 15,439 to 378,908. In New York, the number jumped from 14,272 to 80,334. California saw claims triple to 186,809. Louisiana claims jumped by more than 70,000 in a week.

Nationally, there were 282,000 claims the week before. In fact, initial job claims have been hovering around the low 200,000s in the weeks before last week, a sign that the U.S. job market was strong before the collapse, notes CNN Business. Economists expect Thursday's report to be just a sign of things to come.

"We estimate that by summer, 14 million workers will have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus shock," Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist for the US Department of Labor who is now at the Economic Policy Institute, tweeted.

Despite the record number of jobless claims, the stock market continued to surge this week. On Thursday, the DOW saw a 6.4% jump over Wednesday, reports CNBC. The DOW has jumped 20 percent over the past three days, the biggest three-day surge since 1931.


The stock market jump could be credited to the $2 trillion economic relief package the Senate passed unanimously late Wednesday. The stimulus bill will next go to the House, where it is expected to be passed.

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