The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the United States last week hit a new record of more than 6 million as measures against coronaviruses took root.
US Department of Labor figures show the number of claims in the week ending March 28 rose to 6.65 million from 3.3 million the previous week.
It was much higher than the 3.5 million estimated by economists, and adds to fears about the depth of the recession facing the world’s largest economy. fight the pandemic.
The report says the virus “continues to have an impact on the number of initial requests,” with almost all states citing its impact on the numbers.
More than 80% of Americans are currently in some form of lockout, up from less than 50% two weeks ago, causing an avalanche of jobless claims.
The number of claims – which had already reached a record last week – has already far exceeded levels seen in the last recession, when they peaked at 665,000.
Experts warn the country should prepare for escalating numbers – thanks to the generous provisions of a $ 2.2 billion stimulus package signed by Donald Trump last week.
As part of the measures, the self-employed and concert economy workers who were not previously eligible to request payments can now do so.
Gregory Daco, US chief economist at Oxford Economics in New York, said: “The US job market is in free fall.
“The prospect of tighter foreclosures and the fact that many states have not yet been able to process the full amount of jobless claims suggests that the worst is yet to come. “
Thursday’s data provides a first glimpse of the rapidly deteriorating labor market.
Key figures for “non-farm” jobs in the United States for March, to be released on Friday, will not cover the picture until the middle of the month, when only a few states are enforcing “stay at home” orders.
Retailers, including Macy’s, Kohl’s and Gap, said Monday they will find tens of thousands of workers as they prepare to keep stores closed for longer.
David Kelly, chief global strategist at JP Morgan Funds in New York, said: “A glimpse of the hardest hit sectors suggests a potential job loss of over 16 million.
“The loss would be enough to drop the unemployment rate from about 3.5% to 12.5%, which would be its highest rate since the Great Depression.”