Graham Kilmer

One in 10 American Workers Lost Their Job in Past Month

Over 6.6 million people filed for unemployment last week

By - Apr 9th, 2020 03:57 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.

Unemployment across the country continues to rise at an unprecedented speed, one economic policy think tank called the current rate of unemployment claims “mind-boggling.”

Over 6.6 million people filed for unemployment insurance last week, according to newly-released data from the federal Department of Labor. It was the second week in a row that more than 6 million claims were filed.

The number of claims was down, slightly, compared the week before. The labor department reported 261,000 less unemployment claims during the week ending April 4 relative to the week before. The revised estimate for the prior week was 6.8 million claims filed.

All told, since the beginning of March, more than 17 million people have filed for unemployment. It wasn’t until the second week of March that unemployment claims started flooding in, when businesses around the country shut down to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In less than a month, one in ten workers in the country lost their job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the US workforce is approximately 163 million people.

There still isn’t up-to-date data on the current unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released rate for March was 4.4 percent. But the survey periods for that number “predated many coronavirus-related business and school closures,” the bureau reported.

In Wisconsin, over the past seven days, 76,391 people have filed for unemployment. That brings the total number of unemployment claims since March 15 to 332,694. Wisconsin provided information to the labor department during the last two weeks of March showing that the industries hit hard by unemployment in the state are food services, accommodation, health care and social assistance, manufacturing and retail.

Wallethub, a personal finance website, ranked states on the percentage increase they’ve seen in unemployment claims in 2020 compared to 2019. Wisconsin had the 4th smallest increase in claims, showing a 1,847 percent increase.

Looking at unemployment claims nationally, the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute (EPI), released a statement saying “The 16.8 million unemployment insurance claims filed in the last three weeks is a mind-boggling 2,500% increase over the pre-virus period.” The institute offered a sobering way to quantify the figure: “For a benchmark, this is as if the entire adult population of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin applied for unemployment insurance in the last three weeks.”

The institute has projected that in the near term, job losses could very easily exceed 20 million. And it’s important to note that the latest data on unemployment claims naturally does not include “independent contractors, those who don’t have long enough work histories, those who had to quit work to care for a child whose school closed, and more,” said Heidi Shierholz senior economist and director of policy for EPI.

Last week, Shierholz, who was formerly the chief economist for the Department of Labor, said the shocks the labor market is experiencing are more extreme than anything the country has seen, even during the worst weeks of the Great Recession.

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Categories: Business, Economics, Health

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