New weekly jobless claims soar to 3.3 million amid virus outbreak

Unemployment claims in Pennsylvania surged in wake of the coronavirus to 120,000 as of March 19.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON/THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER/TNS

BY DON LEE
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for jobless benefits soared to unprecedented levels last week as new government data put into stark relief the magnitude of the economic pain caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Labor Department said Thursday that nearly 3.3 million people filed for first-time unemployment claims in the week ending last Saturday.

That number was five times greater than in any single weekly period of new filings since record-keeping began in 1967 – and it points to what many expect will be a dramatic increase in the jobless rate, possibly even into double digits later this spring.

The report reflected the widespread shutdown of large sectors of the American economy, with countless restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues and other businesses furloughing employees or slashing their work hours.

“There has been a sharp explosion here in terms of furloughs and layoffs just in the past week, and at a much faster speed than during the Great Recession,” said Michael Bernick, former chief of California’s Employment Development Department and now a lawyer at San Francisco-based firm of Duane Morris.

Almost every state logged large increases in claims, led by several East Coast states, Ohio, Texas and California, according to filings and estimates by states.

In California alone, more than a million people have applied for unemployment benefits this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

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