36 million have sought US unemployment aid since virus hit

Nearly 3 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as the viral outbreak led more companies to slash jobs even though most states have begun to let some businesses reopen under certain restrictions.

Posted: May 14, 2020 12:32 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 3 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as the viral outbreak led more companies to slash jobs even though most states have begun to let some businesses reopen under certain restrictions.

The wave of layoffs has heightened concerns that more government aid is needed to sustain the economy through the deep recession caused by the viral outbreak. Republicans in Congress are locked in a standoff with Democrats, who have proposed trillions more in aid, including for struggling states and localities, beyond the nearly $3 trillion already given to individuals and businesses. Republican leaders say they want to first see how previous aid affects the economy and have expressed skepticism about approving much more spending now.

Roughly 36 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the two months since the coronavirus first forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said Thursday. An additional 842,000 people applied for aid last week through a separate federal program set up for the self-employed and gig workers.

All told, the figures point to a job market gripped by its worst crisis in decades and an economy that is sinking into a severe downturn. The report suggests the tentative reopening of some businesses in many states has done little to reverse the flow of mass layoffs. Last week’s pace of new applications for aid is four times the record high that prevailed before the coronavirus struck hard in March.

Jobless workers in some states are still reporting difficulty applying for or receiving benefits. These include free-lance, gig and self-employed workers, who became newly eligible for jobless aid this year.

In Georgia, one of the first states to partially reopen its economy, the number of unemployment claims rose last week to 241,000. In Florida, which has allowed restaurants to reopen at one-quarter capacity, claims jumped to nearly 222,000, though that state’s unemployment agency has struggled to process claims. Other states that have lifted some restrictions, such as South Carolina and Texas, reported large declines in claims.

President Donald Trump appeared to respond to the report by tweeting, “Good numbers coming out of States that are opening. America is getting its life back!”

The latest jobless claims follow a devastating jobs report last week. The government said the unemployment rate soared to 14.7% in April, the highest rate since the Great Depression, and employers shed a stunning 20.5 million jobs. A decade’s worth of job growth was wiped out in a single month.

Even those figures failed to capture the full scale of the damage. The government said many workers in April were counted as employed but absent from work but should have been counted as temporarily unemployed.

Millions of other laid-off workers didn’t look for a new job in April, likely discouraged by their prospects in a mostly shuttered economy, and weren’t included, either. If all those people had been counted as unemployed, the jobless rate would have reached nearly 24%.

Most economists have forecast that the official unemployment rate could hit 18% or higher in May before potentially declining by summer.

The job market’s collapse has occurred with dizzying speed. As recently as February, the unemployment rate was 3.5%, a half-century low. Employers had added jobs for a record 9½ years. Even in March, unemployment was just 4.4%.

Now, with few Americans shopping, traveling, eating out or otherwise spending normally, economists are projecting that the gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic activity — is shrinking in the April-June quarter at a roughly 40% annual rate. That would be the deepest quarterly contraction on record.

The states that are now easing lockdowns are doing so in varied ways. Ohio has permitted warehouses, most offices, factories, and construction companies to reopen, but restaurants and bars remain closed for indoor sit-down service.

A handful of states have gone further, including Georgia, which has opened barber shops, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors and gyms. South Carolina has reopened beach hotels, and Texas has reopened shopping malls.

Data from private firms suggest that some previously laid-off workers have started to return to small businesses in those states, though the number of applications for unemployment benefits remains high.

Few analysts expect a quick rebound. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned Wednesday that the virus-induced recession could turn into a prolonged downturn that would erode workers’ skills and employment connections while bankrupting many small businesses. Powell urged Congress and the White House to consider additional spending and tax measures to help small businesses and households avoid bankruptcy.

Powell spoke a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, proposed a $3 trillion aid package that would direct money to state and local governments, households and health-care workers.

Trump is applauding the moves to reopen states’ economies in hopes of reducing unemployment. So far, there is limited evidence on how that is working.

Homebase, a software company that provides time-clock technology to small businesses, has tracked how many employees have clocked in and for how many hours since the pandemic struck. Though Homebase’s data suggests that some people have returned to work in states that have partially reopened, it’s unclear how sustainable that trend can be unless many more customers return. All states remain far below their pre-virus employment levels.

In Georgia, which began reopening in late April, the number of people working at small businesses on Tuesday was down 37% compared with the beginning of March, according to Homebase’s data. That is an improvement from mid-April, when the number of employees working had fallen by half.

In New York, which remains mostly shut down, employment at small businesses is down 63% as of Tuesday, only slightly better than in mid-April.

Terre Haute
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 55°
Robinson
Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 56°
Indianapolis/Eagle Creek
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 54°
Paris
Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 56°
Mattoon/Charleston
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 54°
Terre Haute
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 55°
Terre Haute
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 55°
Cloudy and a little warmer!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1312620

Reported Deaths: 24056
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook5258549860
DuPage871721255
Will72414968
Lake65012969
Kane56108756
Winnebago31421460
Madison29941515
McHenry27305279
St. Clair27246504
Peoria21618285
Champaign19921139
Sangamon17912230
McLean17130172
Tazewell16176259
Rock Island14360305
Kankakee13622199
Kendall1245290
LaSalle11878233
Macon10307191
DeKalb9432118
Vermilion9117128
Adams8243117
Williamson7236126
Whiteside6937166
Boone644671
Ogle581578
Clinton571890
Grundy563771
Coles555094
Knox5354137
Jackson487263
Henry475863
Effingham468672
Livingston462583
Macoupin461181
Stephenson455981
Woodford444364
Marion4419115
Franklin433870
Monroe431990
Jefferson4174119
Randolph409584
Lee401951
Morgan378279
Fulton370050
Logan367156
Montgomery364773
Bureau355481
Christian353172
Fayette314154
Perry313059
Iroquois291564
Jersey263849
McDonough262344
Douglas255335
Saline251753
Lawrence239525
Shelby225137
Union223040
Crawford209325
Bond199424
Cass195124
Jo Daviess177724
Pike177551
Clark176832
Warren174646
Wayne173652
Hancock173230
Richland172140
Carroll172036
Ford170746
Edgar167239
White166626
Washington162825
Moultrie157826
Clay147443
Mason143242
Greene142633
Piatt142014
Johnson140314
De Witt139823
Mercer137333
Wabash134112
Massac131440
Cumberland128319
Menard119112
Jasper114317
Marshall99917
Hamilton82415
Schuyler7125
Brown6896
Pulaski6807
Stark61523
Edwards55912
Henderson52114
Calhoun5122
Scott4691
Alexander46211
Gallatin4534
Putnam4533
Hardin37012
Pope3073
Out of IL30
Unassigned02301

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 711787

Reported Deaths: 13252
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion970181723
Lake52028950
Allen39414672
Hamilton34709406
St. Joseph34386543
Elkhart27543433
Vanderburgh22109394
Tippecanoe21967213
Porter18043301
Johnson17600374
Hendricks16873310
Clark12728190
Madison12379337
Vigo12248244
Monroe11535166
LaPorte11258204
Delaware10390184
Howard9712211
Kosciusko9184114
Hancock8031139
Bartholomew7925155
Warrick7709155
Floyd7574176
Wayne6921198
Grant6862171
Boone6584100
Morgan6425138
Dubois6101117
Marshall5819109
Dearborn572076
Cass5706104
Henry5591101
Noble544583
Jackson494672
Shelby481995
Lawrence4351118
Gibson429789
Harrison429371
Clinton421853
Montgomery419387
DeKalb414484
Whitley383239
Huntington380480
Miami374165
Steuben368757
Knox367589
Putnam353660
Jasper352946
Wabash348578
Adams338453
Ripley335769
Jefferson318180
White309254
Daviess290199
Wells286981
Decatur279792
Fayette277362
Greene270685
Posey269533
Scott262053
LaGrange256170
Clay255245
Randolph236780
Washington231931
Spencer228231
Jennings225548
Fountain209845
Sullivan208342
Starke206452
Owen192956
Fulton192440
Jay186629
Carroll186120
Perry181436
Orange178553
Rush170824
Vermillion166543
Franklin166035
Tipton161543
Parke144616
Blackford134131
Pike130934
Pulaski114445
Newton104434
Brown100740
Crawford98114
Benton97613
Martin83315
Warren80215
Switzerland7728
Union70210
Ohio56011
Unassigned0408