Job losses in the United States increase as global economic pain intensifies

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WASHINGTON – The number of Americans kicked out of work by the coronavirus jumped to at least 22 million on Thursday in an unprecedented collapse that fueled wider protests and prompted President Donald Trump to loosen national guidelines for social distancing.

Trump was planning to announce new recommendations later today to allow states to reopen, despite warnings from business leaders and governors that additional protective gear and tests are needed first.

The government has said that an additional 5.2 million people claimed unemployment benefits last week, bringing the four-week total to about 22 million out of an American workforce of about 159 million – which is by far the worst period of job loss in the United States ever. The losses amount to approximately 1 in 7 workers.

Some economists have said that the unemployment rate could reach 20% in April, the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

While some U.S. leaders and citizens have called on the government to reopen shops, factories and schools – especially in rural areas and other parts of the country that have not experienced major epidemics – the health officials and many politicians have warned that the return to normal is far away. and that lifting the restrictions too early could allow the virus to come back in force.

The decision on when and how to relax rests not with the White House, but with heads of state and local officials, who have imposed mandatory blockades and other restrictions in the past month.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, hard hit, with more than a third of the country’s coronavirus deaths, was among those calling for caution.

“Everyone wants our economy to restart … but there must be a very clear understanding,” he said. “If we cannot provide the foundation for our people, then you can say goodbye to your recovery. “

The epidemic has infected more than 2 million people worldwide and killed around 140,000 people, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University, although the real numbers are much higher. The death toll in the United States has exceeded 31,000, with more than 600,000 confirmed infections.

The European head of the World Health Organization said optimism that the spread of the virus was decreasing in Italy, Spain and France had been tempered by the fact that it was increasing or staying at a high level in Great Britain. -Brittany, Russia and Turkey.

“The thunderclouds of this pandemic still weigh heavily on the European region,” said Dr. Hans Kluge.

Meanwhile, economic benefits have intensified worldwide.

In France, Amazon has suspended operations after a court ruled that it was not doing enough to protect its workers in the country. The online retailer has six warehouses in France. In Britain, a government survey found that a quarter of businesses had suspended their activities. Freight traffic in the huge European port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands fell by more than 9% in the first quarter.

In the United States, the government said that house construction collapsed in March, as housing starts fell 22.3% from last month. A day earlier, the United States reported that US industrial production fell in March, its largest decline since the demobilization of the country in 1946 at the end of the Second World War. Retail sales fell by an unprecedented rate of 8.7%, and April should be much worse.

Layoffs in the United States spread far beyond stores, restaurants, and hotels, reaching white-collar professionals such as software programmers, legal assistants, and other office workers.

Many European countries have also experienced heavy job losses, but the social safety nets are stronger there. Government subsidy programs in countries like Germany and France keep millions of people on their payroll instead of letting them get on the unemployment lists.

The International Monetary Fund has said that the fallout from what it calls the “big lockdown” will be the most devastating since the crisis. This has made leaders all the more eager to send people back to work and school and to rebuild devastated economies.

The Lombardy region, hard hit by Italy, is pushing to restart manufacturing on May 4, the day the national foreclosure is set to end. Regional authorities are considering ordering businesses to stagger business hours to avoid overloading public transport.

But Italy’s deputy minister of economic development, Stefan Buffagni, called the plan premature: “Going in a haphazard order risks fueling confusion among citizens and businesses.”

Britain, with more than 13,000 dead, was set Thursday to extend the national foreclosure for several weeks.

In the United States, governors face vocal protests, and in some important cases, against their decisions to shut down businesses, with protesters complaining of the destruction of their livelihoods.

It is estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 people went on Wednesday to protest the restrictions imposed by the governor of Michigan, police interrupted a demonstration in North Carolina which resulted in an arrest and a rally was scheduled for Thursday in Virginia. Protests also took place in Oklahoma and Kentucky.

“This arbitrary proliferation of business closings, which aims to bankrupt all these workers, is just a disaster. This is an economic disaster for Michigan, “said protester Meshawn Maddock.

In northern Leelanau County, Michigan, Sheriff Mike Borkovich said, “People can’t wait to get back to work. They were very upset. “

Troubling data indicates that the worst is yet to come in many parts of the world.

The Japanese Prime Minister has announced that he will extend the state of emergency to the entire country, rather than urban areas, as the virus continues to spread. Japan has the oldest population in the world and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for intensified preparations in Africa, warning that the continent “could endure the greatest impacts”.

In Zimbabwe, where food was scarce before the epidemic, police raided a market, torching 3 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables and dispersing farmers who had violated travel restrictions to try to sell their crops.

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Perry reported in Wellington, New Zealand. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to it.

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Follow the AP coverage of the pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak



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