US Jobless Claims Hit 26M Amid Coronavirus Pandemic as Another 4.4M File for Unemployment

Another 4.4 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week, as coronavirus shutdowns continue across the country. In the past five weeks, at least 26 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since state governments ordered people to stay home to help slow the virus's spread. This means the job growth from the past decade has been wiped out in just a month.

On Thursday, the Department of Labor released new data, reporting another 4.4 million Americans filed initial jobless claims in the week ending on April 18. However, The New York Times notes this is only one piece of data highlighting how dire the economic situation is for the country. One major issue is that states have not begun making payments under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Only 10 states started making those payments, and some states have not even finished systems needed for people to start the process.

"It is very easy with these numbers to get to 20 percent unemployment," David G. Blanchflower, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, told NBC News. He and David N.F. Bell from the University of Stirling in Scotland recently published a paper for the National Institute Economic Review, in which they expressed concerns that those who did not see a personal "boom" during the last overall "boom" could be more vulnerable in the future. "The young, the lower income and least educated groups who generally do well in a boom but didn’t in the last ‘boom’ are thus even more vulnerable than usual in the coming downturn," they wrote.

Following the Labor Department's new data, White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNBC the report "continues to show that these are challenging times for many Americans who want to get back to work," adding, "Because of President Trump's leadership and the American people’s commitment to slow the spread, we are on a data-driven, responsible path to opening up America again. As we begin the phased approach, the Administration continues to move quickly to provide the benefits under the CARES Act that workers, families, and small businesses across the country need."

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The report also came as some state governments look to reopen businesses. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plans to open his state's economy as soon as Friday, although President Donald Trump said he "strongly" disagrees with this plan. "I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he's doing," Trump said Wednesday. "But I think spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barbershops in phase one — we’re going to have phase two very soon — is just too soon. I think it's too soon."

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has passed a new $484 billion relief package for small businesses and hospitals, reports Politico. The bill immediately provides the Paycheck Protection Program with $321 billion to help small businesses after the fund ran out of money last week. It also includes $60 billion in disaster loans for small businesses and $75 billion for hospitals. It will also devote $25 billion to begin more coronavirus testing. Trump is expected to sign the bill.