U.S. weekly jobless claims surge to a record 3.28 million as coronavirus spurs mass layoffs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to a record of more than 3 million last week as strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic brought the country to a sudden halt, unleashing a wave of layoffs that likely ended the longest employment boom in U.S. history. FILE PHOTO:…

U.S. weekly jobless claims surge to a record 3.28 million as coronavirus spurs mass layoffs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to a record of more than 3 million last week as strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic brought the country to a sudden halt, unleashing a wave of layoffs that likely ended the longest employment boom in U.S. history. FILE PHOTO: Job seekers speak with potential employers at a City of Boston Neighborhood Career Fair on May Day in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brian SnyderThe weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department on Thursday offered the clearest evidence yet of the coronavirus’ devastating impact on the economy, which has forced the Federal Reserve to take extraordinary steps and the U.S. Congress to assemble a record $2 trillion stimulus package. Economists say the economy is already in recession. Weekly claims are the most timely labor market indicator. With nearly half the country’s population under some form of a lockdown and reports of state employment websites overwhelmed, economists are bracing for further increases in jobless claims. “With partial lockdowns across the country leading to a sudden stop in economic activity, the U.S. economy will experience the largest economic contraction on record with the most severe surge in unemployment ever,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York. “We expect jobless claims will continue to climb as more economic activity shuts down.” Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose 3.00 million to a seasonally adjusted 3.28 million in the week ending March 21, eclipsing the previous record of 695,000 set in 1982, the Labor Department said. That also dwarfed the peak of 665,000 in applications during the 2007-2009 recession, during which 8.7 million jobs were lost. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would rise to 1 million, though estimates were as high as 4 million. The Labor Department attributed the surge to COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. A running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University showed that at least 1,046 people in the country have died from COVID-19. “This large increase in unemployment claims was not unexpected, and results from the recognition by Americans across the country that we have had to temporarily halt certain activities in order to defeat the c
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