Graham Kilmer

U.S. Sees A Historic Number of Unemployment Claims

More than 3.3 million claims filed last week.

By - Mar 26th, 2020 05:53 pm
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On March 19th, the downtown Milwaukee Punch Bowl Social laid off 91 employees. Photo by Jennifer Rick.

On March 19th, the downtown Milwaukee Punch Bowl Social laid off 91 employees. Photo by Jennifer Rick.

The number of unemployment claims filed in the United States skyrocketed last week as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From March 16th through the 21st, more than 3.3 million people filed unemployment claims across the country. That’s approximately three million more people than filed for unemployment the week prior.

According to the Department of Labor, this is the highest number of seasonally adjusted claims ever in the history of such claims. The next highest number of claims in a week was 695,000 in October 1982. Last week’s 3.3 million figure is up 370 percent from that week in 1982.

This historic spike in unemployment claims is an initial datapoint suggesting the country is headed towards an unprecedented unemployment rate as a result of COVID-19. The President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, James Bullard, recently published an analysis that said the country could see unemployment rates as high as 30 percent by the beginning of April.

The most recent estimate of the national unemployment rate puts it at 3.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data is from February. And up until recently, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was generally in line with this national rate. The data on Wisconsin’s current unemployment rate likely won’t be available until May, according to the Department of Workforce Development.

Wisconsin wasn’t exempt from the surge. Unemployment claims were up approximately 1200% in Wisconsin relative to the same one week period last year.

Help could be on the way in the form of a federal stimulus package, but its ultimate form and timing will be key in its effectiveness. The U.S. Senate passed a $2.5 trillion stimulus package this week, but the House of Representatives still needs to act. Professor Scott Adams, chair of the economics department at UW-Milwaukee, recently told Urban Milwaukee the nature and scope of this stimulus and future fiscal policy will have an impact on unemployment and how it affects the economy in the near and long term. “Put money in people’s hands quickly and without strings,” said Adams.

As for right now, there is a lot of uncertainty how the employment crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic will play out. Adams said there will likely be waves of unemployment, as each wave creates feedback in the system leading to further layoffs and higher unemployment.

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Categories: Economics, Health

One thought on “U.S. Sees A Historic Number of Unemployment Claims”

  1. Duane says:

    Interesting dichotomy, today the 3.3m weekly unemployment claim sets a dubious record while the Dow enters a new bull market, ending the shortest bear market on record. The blue-chip index achieved a gain of 20% from its low in just three trading days, for the quickest bear market low to bull market entry on record. This bear market lasted for 11 trading days, making it the shortest ever. Happy days are here again!

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