The number of people filing for unemployment benefits skyrocketed to a record-breaking 3.283 million - well above the 1.5 million expected by economists. The previous record for initial unemployment claims was 695,000 claims filed the week ending Oct. 2, 1982.
It was the largest single-week increase since the Great Recession.
The numbers released by the Labor Department Thursday demonstrate the damage being done to the American economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to lockdowns and shutdowns that have closed millions of nonessential businesses across the country.
"Early state reports this week indicate initial claims for the week ended March 21 will rocket well over one million next week—and possibly as high as three million,” Wells Fargo wrote on March 20. “That would surpass anything we saw during the financial crisis and could be upwards of three times the all-time high in claims set back in 1982. This will shock even the most bearish forecasters. As economic activity is grinding to a halt, the U.S. economy is quickly catapulting into a recession."
California alone accounts for more than 1 million claims of the claims, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his daily press briefing on Wednesday. Newsom praised the Senate relief bill, which was passed by the Senate just hours before the Labor Department released the staggering unemployment numbers.
"This bill will be very helpful, and it’s very timely," Newsom said.
The historic $2 trillion economic rescue package contain measures that would expand unemployment benefits and offer cash relief for businesses and corporations that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
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