Washington: The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits likely shot to a record high for a second week in a row as more jurisdictions enforced stay-at-home measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic, which economists say has pushed the economy into recession.
Thursday’s weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department, the most timely data on the economy’s health, is expected to show that claims blew past the previous week’s record 3.3 million. It will likely reinforce economists’ views that the longest employment boom in U.S. history probably ended in March.
More than 80% of Americans are under some form of lockdown, up from less than 50% a couple of weeks ago, leaving state employment offices overwhelmed by an avalanche of applications.
The United States has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, with nearly 188,000 people infected. Almost 4,000 people in the country have died from the illness, according to a Reuters tally.
“The U.S. labor market is in free-fall,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York. “The prospect of more stringent lockdown measures and the fact that many states have not yet been able to process the full amount of jobless claim applications suggest the worst is still to come.”
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits probably raced to a seasonally adjusted 3.50 million for the week ended March 28.
Applications for unemployment benefits peaked at 665,000 during the 2007-2009 recession, during which 8.7 million jobs were lost.
Economists say the country should brace for jobless claims to continue escalating, partly citing generous provisions of a historic $2.2 trillion fiscal package signed by President Donald Trump last Friday and the federal government’s easing of requirements for workers to seek benefits....