Record 22 million have sought US jobless aid since virus

Roughly 22 million have sought jobless benefits in the past month — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record.

Posted: Apr 16, 2020 8:39 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The wave of layoffs that has engulfed the U.S. economy since the coronavirus struck forced 5.2 million more people to seek unemployment benefits last week, the government reported Thursday.

Roughly 22 million have now sought jobless benefits in the past month — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record. It means that roughly one in seven workers have lost their jobs in that time.

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The grim figures point to an economy that is tumbling into what appears to be a calamitous recession, the worst in decades. The nation’s output could shrink by roughly 10.5% before it starts to rebound, according to Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. That would be more than double the contraction that occurred during the 2008-2009 recession, which was the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

All businesses deemed nonessential have been closed in nearly every state. Deep job losses have been inflicted across nearly every industry. Some economists say the unemployment rate could reach as high as 20% in April, which would be the highest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s. By comparison, unemployment never topped 10% during the Great Recession.

Layoffs are spreading beyond service industries like hotels, bars and restaurants, which absorbed the brunt of the initial job cuts, into white collar professional occupations, including software programmers, construction workers and sales people.

Up to 50 million jobs are vulnerable to coronavirus-related layoffs, economists say — about one-third of all positions in the United States. That figure is based on a calculation of jobs that are deemed non-essential by state and federal governments and that cannot be done from home.

It’s unlikely that all those workers will be laid off or file for unemployment benefits. But it suggests the extraordinary magnitude of unemployment that could result from the pandemic.

“This crisis combines the scale of a national economic downturn with the pace of a natural disaster,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor. “And that’s really unprecedented in American economic history.”

All told, nearly 12 million people are now receiving unemployment checks, essentially matching the peak reached in January 2010, shortly after the Great Recession officially ended. That figure is less than the number of applicants in part because it lags behind the number of first-time jobless claims figure by a week. And many people who apply for unemployment aid are turned down and don't actually receive checks.

Retailers and other service companies keep cutting jobs. The electronics chain Best Buy said this week that it will furlough 51,000 of its hourly employees, including nearly all its part-time workers. Royal Caribbean Cruises will cut one-quarter of its 5,000 corporate employees.

But now, job losses are spreading well beyond occupations involving restaurants, retail, travel and entertainment, which were hit first and hardest. The software company Toast, which works with the restaurant industry, last week cut half its workforce -- or 1,300 people -- citing a dizzying drop in restaurant sales. Yelp, the customer review site, cut 1,000 jobs. Groupon, the online discount company, shed 2,800.

Some law firms have been forced to reduce their staffs. One victim was Fern Weinbaum, 68, who was furloughed last month from her job as a legal secretary at a small law firm in Manhattan. Weinbaum still hasn’t received her unemployment benefits, which she is counting on to help pay her monthly rent of $1,100.

“I am very anxious, I need the money,” she said. “It’s very frustrating.”

Employee discussions of layoffs on Zhao’s website have jumped 47% among information technology firms and 64% in finance, he said. Such discussions have nearly doubled among workers in health care. That’s no longer surprising: Many doctors’ offices and other health providers have cut back on nonessential procedures, and some are cutting staff.

Some state unemployment agencies, swamped by applications, are still working through backlogs, suggesting that the claims figures will likely remain high in the coming weeks.

Connecticut’s labor department said this week that it had processed roughly half the nearly 350,000 applications for jobless benefits it had received in the past month. That’s usually the amount it typically receives in two years.

In most states, self-employed, freelance and gig workers aren’t yet able to file applications for unemployment aid under new rules enacted by the federal government’s $2.2 trillion economic relief package. That legislation extended eligibility for aid to those categories of workers for the first time. But most states have to establish new systems to handle their jobless claims.

That’s become a problem for people like Celia Rocha, 44, who lost what she called her “dream job” as a studio assistant to an artist in Los Angeles after California ordered all non-essential businesses to close last month. Rocha, who had worked as a contractor for three years, said she applied for benefits but was inexplicably turned down. When she has called the state’s phone line to ask questions, she has received only a recording directing her to the website.

“It’s really frustrating that you can’t talk to someone and have your questions answered,” Rocha said. “There’s no information about when we can apply for this” on the state’s website.

On Wednesday, California said it was intending to have a website for the self-employed and contractors active by Monday.

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Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 489116

Reported Deaths: 6614
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1014901592
Ramsey43327810
Dakota36619394
Anoka33496391
Washington22208262
Stearns18822202
St. Louis14887265
Scott13403107
Wright12609116
Olmsted1185990
Sherburne878574
Carver787641
Clay695588
Rice677691
Blue Earth601035
Kandiyohi581274
Crow Wing523582
Chisago501745
Otter Tail486071
Benton450990
Winona419749
Mower410831
Douglas394568
Goodhue389069
Nobles387247
Polk345063
McLeod341250
Beltrami338951
Morrison327747
Becker314842
Itasca314646
Lyon313845
Isanti309456
Steele303611
Carlton300449
Freeborn286424
Pine283216
Nicollet262441
Todd249730
Brown248237
Le Sueur238120
Mille Lacs229447
Cass221224
Waseca210417
Meeker208134
Martin190829
Wabasha18733
Roseau181017
Hubbard161041
Houston158214
Dodge15404
Renville152640
Redwood147127
Fillmore13969
Pennington138716
Chippewa136935
Cottonwood136020
Wadena131420
Faribault124917
Aitkin119133
Sibley118310
Watonwan11828
Rock116314
Kanabec108820
Pipestone101824
Yellow Medicine97717
Murray9548
Jackson94610
Swift87818
Pope8165
Marshall78615
Stevens7478
Lake74218
Clearwater72014
Lac qui Parle68716
Wilkin67711
Koochiching62111
Big Stone5173
Lincoln5122
Grant4928
Norman4798
Unassigned44768
Mahnomen4437
Kittson41021
Red Lake3615
Traverse3115
Lake of the Woods2221
Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 337676

Reported Deaths: 5494
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk52087560
Linn19512317
Scott17167212
Black Hawk14970293
Woodbury13847214
Johnson1317075
Dubuque12450196
Dallas1022593
Pottawattamie9897146
Story965045
Warren514976
Clinton502684
Cerro Gordo501383
Webster495788
Sioux480369
Marshall465273
Des Moines428461
Muscatine426393
Buena Vista413237
Wapello4059110
Jasper387767
Plymouth368978
Lee354653
Marion341571
Jones285155
Henry279837
Bremer270555
Carroll266948
Crawford253635
Boone244330
Benton241154
Washington239547
Mahaska215746
Jackson210339
Dickinson204240
Tama203065
Kossuth198655
Delaware186240
Clay184425
Winneshiek183628
Fayette179335
Page178119
Buchanan177829
Wright174531
Hamilton173942
Cedar172723
Hardin170239
Harrison167670
Clayton160254
Butler159331
Mills148520
Floyd148141
Poweshiek148030
Cherokee146236
Lyon145741
Allamakee144848
Madison143218
Iowa140723
Hancock138030
Grundy132430
Winnebago130531
Calhoun129611
Cass129651
Jefferson128634
Appanoose123247
Louisa122644
Mitchell120740
Chickasaw119915
Union119331
Sac118818
Shelby117634
Emmet115340
Humboldt113725
Franklin109719
Guthrie109628
Palo Alto101721
Howard99722
Unassigned9720
Montgomery96936
Clarke95120
Keokuk92429
Monroe90028
Ida81832
Adair81630
Pocahontas80919
Davis76623
Monona76527
Greene73110
Lucas72221
Osceola68315
Worth6678
Taylor64112
Decatur5719
Fremont5619
Van Buren53718
Ringgold50620
Audubon4759
Wayne47221
Adams3194
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