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
Few Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 71°
Robinson
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 68°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 71°
Rockville
Scattered Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 65°
Casey
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 69°
Brazil
Few Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 71°
Marshall
Few Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 71°
Partly cloudy, calm, and quiet.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

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

Confirmed Cases: 198248

Reported Deaths: 7866
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1124844933
Lake12852447
DuPage12427522
Kane9878305
Will9413346
St. Clair4107161
Winnebago3797131
McHenry3250114
Madison270276
Kankakee180269
Rock Island176436
Champaign169319
Peoria166736
Kendall139823
Unassigned1347209
Sangamon129733
DeKalb94730
LaSalle80124
Boone76923
Jackson73120
McLean67015
Macon65023
Tazewell6108
Adams5576
Coles49221
Randolph4747
Williamson4346
Ogle4165
Clinton41517
Whiteside36617
Grundy3345
Stephenson3346
Union32723
Monroe32313
Knox3131
Jefferson29219
Morgan2696
Iroquois26711
Henry2531
Vermilion2342
Cass23311
Bureau2313
Franklin1941
Warren1910
Perry1842
Macoupin1823
Lee1781
Montgomery1717
Marion1650
Effingham1631
Woodford1583
Logan1571
McDonough14515
Christian1434
Saline1342
Jo Daviess1301
Livingston1223
Douglas1222
Jersey1172
Pulaski941
Clark872
Shelby861
Mercer764
Moultrie750
White710
Johnson710
Fayette693
Washington670
Wayne662
Piatt630
Hancock631
Bond623
Carroll614
Jasper607
Greene590
Cumberland573
Menard570
Mason560
Lawrence510
Gallatin512
Ford502
Massac410
Wabash400
Alexander370
Fulton350
De Witt340
Crawford300
Edgar290
Hamilton290
Marshall280
Clay260
Pike240
Scott210
Edwards200
Richland200
Hardin180
Schuyler180
Brown150
Putnam140
Henderson130
Pope110
Calhoun90
Stark70
Out of IL10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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

Confirmed Cases: 75862

Reported Deaths: 3069
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16088730
Lake7688278
Elkhart492685
Allen4002163
St. Joseph357883
Hamilton2829104
Vanderburgh202213
Hendricks1927108
Cass18029
Johnson1789119
Porter135539
Clark128749
Tippecanoe123811
Madison100665
LaPorte93130
Howard91365
Kosciusko86812
Bartholomew81747
Floyd80948
Marshall79323
Monroe76631
Delaware74552
Dubois70812
Vigo69911
Noble68829
Boone68746
Hancock68339
Jackson5965
Warrick58830
Shelby56527
LaGrange56310
Grant52930
Dearborn51228
Morgan49334
Clinton4444
Henry40620
Wayne38510
White37611
Montgomery35921
Lawrence35227
Harrison34823
Decatur34132
Putnam3128
Daviess27720
Miami2772
Scott27210
Jasper2552
Greene25434
Franklin24615
DeKalb2384
Gibson2314
Jennings22712
Steuben2133
Ripley2138
Carroll1962
Fayette1947
Perry18713
Posey1790
Starke1787
Wells1742
Orange17424
Fulton1722
Wabash1703
Jefferson1672
Knox1610
Whitley1556
Tipton14312
Washington1421
Sullivan1381
Spencer1373
Clay1245
Huntington1243
Randolph1244
Newton12010
Adams1092
Owen991
Jay920
Rush854
Pulaski811
Fountain742
Brown741
Blackford652
Ohio656
Benton640
Pike590
Vermillion580
Switzerland530
Parke511
Martin480
Crawford450
Union410
Warren241
Unassigned0206