Record-high 6.6 million Americans file weekly unemployment claims

U.S. weekly jobless claims jump to 6.6 million

A record high of 6.6 million Americans filed new unemployment claims for the week ending March 28, 2020, according to new figures released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor.

That number shatters last week's then-record high of 3.3 million claims, which obliterated the previous high of 695,000 in October 1982. Filings for unemployment aid generally reflect the pace of layoffs.

»COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS

The surging layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15% this month, above the previous record of 10.8% set during a deep recession in 1982.

Congress significantly expanded the unemployment benefits system in last week's $2.2 trillion economic rescue package. That legislation added $600 a week in jobless aid, on top of what recipients receive from their states. This will enable many lower-income workers to manage their expenses and even increase their purchasing power and support the economy.

Here's what's in the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill

It also makes many more people eligible for jobless aid, including the self-employed, contractors, and so-called “gig economy” workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers.

The legislation will also help fund unemployment benefits for workers whose hours have been cut. That would enable these people to replace some of their lost income with unemployment aid even as they keep their jobs.

About 26 states allow workers with reduced hours to claim benefits. Most economists support doing so because it encourages companies to cut back on hours rather than lay off workers. Any program that encourages companies to maintain connections with their workers can help the economy rebound faster after the virus outbreak is contained.

Typically, people who receive jobless aid are required to actively look for a new job and to document their searches. But Congress has passed other legislation that encourages states to drop that requirement, given that so many businesses are closed, and most Americans have been ordered to stay mostly at home.

On Friday, the government will issue the March jobs report, which economists forecast will show a loss of 145,000 jobs. That report is based on data gathered mostly before the spike in layoffs began two weeks ago. Though relatively small, that loss would still end a record-long 113-month streak of job growth.

In Other News