The numbers: The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits surged by 70,000 in mid-March to a 2- 1/2-year high as the coronavirus shut down large sections of the economy. And the worst is still yet to come with the crisis triggering waves of layoffs.
Initial jobless claims climbed to a seasonally adjusted 281,000 from 211,000 in the seven days ended March 14, the government said Thursday. That’s one of the biggest one-week increases ever and puts jobless claims at the highest level since September 2017.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had conservatively forecast a 220,000 reading, but said a much larger number was easily conceivable in light of the fast-moving crisis.
Employees are being laid off or furloughed in countless businesses. Some of the hardest hit include airlines, hotels, tourism agencies, retailers and restaurants.
New applications for unemployment benefits could soon surge to levels last seen during the worst of the 2007-2009 Great Recession, economists say. Weekly claims peaked at 655,000 in early 2009.
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