(WASHINGTON) — More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier — a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.
The stunning report Thursday from the Labor Department showed that job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world.
Applications for unemployment benefits generally reflect the pace of layoffs. Combined with last week’s report that 3.3 million people sought unemployment aid two weeks ago, the U.S. economy has now suffered nearly 10 million layoffs in just the past several weeks — far exceeding the figure for any corresponding period on record.
Some of last week’s jobless claims are likely delayed filings from the previous week, when state offices that handle unemployment benefits were overwhelmed by a surge of online and telephone claims.
The accelerating layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. That would be more than double the 8.7 million jobs lost during the Great Recession. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15% this month, above the previous record of 10.8% set during a deep recession in 1982.
Many employers are slashing their payrolls to try to stay afloat because their revenue has collapsed, especially at restaurants, hotels, gyms, movie theaters and other venues that depend on face-to-face interaction. Auto sales have sunk, and factories have closed.
More than two-thirds of the U.S. population are under stay-at-home orders, imposed by most U.S. states. That has intensified pressure on businesses, most of which face rent, loans and other bills that must be paid.
The White House and Co
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