Initial claims for unemployment benefits soared to 3.3 million last week, most in history


Initial unemployment requirements rose high to seasonally adjusted 3.28 million for the week ending March 21, according to the Department of Labor.

It is the highest number of first unemployed claims in history since the Department of Labor began tracking the data in 1967. The previous height was 695,000 claims filed in the week ending October 2, 1982.


Last week's jump marked a huge increase from revised 282,000 claims the week before. Before the pandemic, the first demands had hovered in the low 200,000 years each week, reflecting a strong labor market.

But over the past few weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has forced many companies to suddenly shut down as the country tries to curb the spread virus. For many businesses, that also means layoffs, at least temporarily.

That's the main difference between the coronavirus shock compared to previous periods of financial distress: it is sudden and affects virtually every industry and business model.


Economists now expect the US economy to plummet in the second quarter before staging a comeback later in the year after the spread of the virus has slowed.

Meanwhile, state labor departments across the country struggling to cope with the sudden influx in claim for unemployment benefit. For example, the New York Labor Department has added server capacity and hired more than 65 employees to handle all of the claims that suddenly flow in. And last week, Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity said it planned to hire 100 additional employees to help answer calls and walk people through the application process.

This is an evolving story. It will be updated.

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