6.6 Million Workers File Jobless Claims as US Labor Market Rout Continues

April 9, 2020 Updated: April 9, 2020

More than 6.6 million workers in the United States filed unemployment claims during the week ending April 4, as CCP virus-related lockdowns and closures continued to drive deep layoffs.

The number of initial jobless claims filed across the country on a weekly basis—the most timely data on economic health—surged to 6,606,000. The total is only slightly lower than the record-setting 6.9 million claims filed during the prior week, according to the Department of Labor (pdf).

The previous week’s figures were revised up by 219,000 to 6,867,000 from 6,648,000.

Economists polled by Reuters said they expected weekly jobless claims for the week ending April 4 to come in at 5.3 million, while some estimates were as high as 9.3 million.

“These dismal numbers suggest another record-breaking April jobs report,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global Ratings in New York.

“America is now in recession, and as it appears to deepen, the question is how long it will it take before the U.S. recovers,” Bovino said.

The April 9 jobless figures are a near-historic high for the United States, amounting to almost 10 times the pre-COVID-19 crisis record of 695,000, set in 1982. The new claims bring the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits in the last three weeks to more than 16.8 million.

The Department of Labor blamed the spike in unemployment on the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 virus continues to impact the number of initial claims and its impact is also reflected in the increasing levels of insured unemployment,” the agency stated.

Epoch Times Photo
A person sweeps outside the New York State Department of Labor offices, which closed to the public due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Brooklyn on March 20, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The preliminary unemployment rate was 5.1 percent for the week ending March 28, an increase of 3.0 percentage points from the previous week’s unrevised rate, the agency stated.

The mounting economic fallout almost certainly signals the onset of a global recession, with job losses that are likely to dwarf those of the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

Roughly 95 percent of the U.S. population is now under stay-at-home orders, and many factories, restaurants, stores, and other businesses are closed or have seen sales shrivel.

“My anxiety is through the roof right now, not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Laura Wieder, who is laid off from her job managing a now-closed sports bar in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

Epoch Times Photo
A doctor speaks with a homeless man in San Francisco on March 17, 2020. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

The $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27 gives states more flexibility to extend unemployment compensation.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expands states’ ability to provide unemployment insurance for many workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including for workers who aren’t ordinarily eligible for unemployment benefits, such as independent contractors.

Many economists believe there is still more downside for the labor market.

“The labor market has entered a traumatic period,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York. “We foresee the unemployment rate spiking to 14 percent in April.”

‘Not in Free Fall’

Speaking on Face the Nation on April 5, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said he didn’t believe the U.S. economy or jobs market was in “free fall” amid the pandemic.

“We’re asking people to stay home to invest in national health,” Bullard said. “The uptake on the unemployment insurance program is a good thing because it means you’re getting the transfers to the people that are being disrupted by this health-ordered shutdown.”

The Fed’s St. Louis district in late March estimated that some 47 million Americans could lose their jobs as a result of the virus-driven economic fallout, which would bring the rate to around 32 percent.

Bullard told Bloomberg radio on March 30 that he expected unemployment within a range of between 10 and 42 percent, adding that he expected the economy to rebound sharply after the virus is defeated.

A recent Goldman Sachs forecast predicted a 9 percent decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) for the first quarter and a 34 percent plunge in the second quarter.

“This large drop in GDP is consistent with 19.8 million jobs lost by July, bringing unemployment rates across the country into the mid-teens,” analysts at a Washington-based think tank said of Goldman’s figures, adding their own dire forecast of 20 million jobs lost by summer.

“Our estimate is much larger than was predicted even a week ago, when the forecasting implied 14 million would be furloughed or laid off,” the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) wrote in an April 1 note that blamed the COVID-19 outbreak for the carnage in labor markets.

“This kind of upending of the labor market in such a short time is unheard of,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at EPI.

Bank of America analysts forecast similar figures. In a report released on April 2, the analysts project that 16 million to 20 million jobs will be lost within a few months. They expect unemployment to soar to more than 15 percent, worse than the figures during the recession in 2007–2009.

Both Bank of America and Goldman Sachs expect a sharp rebound after the pandemic subsides in the United States.

Ivan Pentchoukov and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM