Nearly 3.2 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, easing from the peak since the coronavirus triggered U.S. shutdowns but marking the seventh week of record applications.
The volume of layoffs exceeds anything Americans have ever suffered in such a brief period.
Roughly 33.5 million people have now filed unemployment claims in the seven weeks since the coronavirus began forcing businesses to button up and slash workforces, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor. By comparison, in February the unemployment rate had reached 3.5 percent, a 50-year low.
On Friday, the government will issue the April jobs report, and it’s likely to be the worst since modern record-keeping began after World War II. The unemployment rate is forecast to reach at least 16 percent, highest since the Great Depression, and with an estimate that 21 million jobs have been lost. That would wipe out all U.S. job growth in decade since the Great Recession — all done in just the span of about one month. A broader measure — the proportion of adults with jobs — could hit a record low.
According to the payroll processor ADP, about half the total jobs in the hotel and restaurant industry — 8.6 million — disappeared in April, based on data from its corporate clients, and more layoffs appear to be spreading beyond front-line industries like restaurants, hotels and retail stores.
After problems with state computer systems had slowed the distribution of federal benefits for many laid-off workers, all 50 states are now paying the $600 extra weekly benefit that the federal government included in its first Coronavirus relief package in late March.
In just over half of the states many small businesses have begun to open. Florida is allowing restaurants to expand outdoor seating. But a class action lawsuit to force the state of Florida to pay all unemployment claims on the spot was denied late Wednesday. A circuit court said the court doesn’t have the authority to make the state go faster.