3.2 Million New Unemployment Claims as Layoffs Persist

3.2 Million New Unemployment Claims as Layoffs Persist

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Layoffs continue to tear through the country, enveloping more industries even as states take tentative steps toward reopening the economy, with the government reporting on Thursday that an additional 3.2 million jobless claims were filed last week.

The weekly tallies have declined since reaching a peak of 6.9 million claims in late March, but the numbers are still stupefying: more than 33 million people have joined the unemployment rolls in seven weeks. In many states, more than a quarter of the work force is jobless.

Economists expect the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department, due Friday, to show that the unemployment rate in April was 15 percent or higher — a Depression-era level. The figure will almost certainly understate the damage.

Workers in the restaurant, travel, hospitality and retail industries were among the first to lose their jobs when the outbreak forced business shutdowns. But recent weeks brought scores of layoffs that affected engineers at Uber, advertising account executives at Omnicom, designers at Airbnb and other office employees.

“We’re still seeing a massive wave of layoffs taking over the U.S. economy,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. He described the latest job losses as a “secondary wave of the coronavirus recession.”

Experts say it is impossible to calculate just how many jobs might come back as states consider lifting shelter-in-place rules.

“We don’t know what normal is going to look like,” said Martha Gimbel, an economist and a labor market expert at Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative.

Latest Updates: Economy

  • Over 33 million have filed unemployment claims in the past seven weeks.
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  • Britain’s central bank forecasts a 30 percent drop in economic activity.

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Many businesses, particularly small ones, may not survive, while others are likely to operate with reduced hours and staff. The job search site Indeed reports that postings are down nearly 40 percent from a year ago.

Now the question is how much of the economy’s tailspin can be offset by the patchwork efforts underway to revive everyday commerce — and how quickly.

In Indiana, more than half a million people have filed for unemployment benefits. But the state began loosening stay-at-home orders on Monday, and officials say they expect that many restaurant workers will be among the first to return to their jobs.

Utah began reopening businesses last Friday, so jobless claims filed this week “might be the first indication of some change,” Brooke Porter Coles, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said in an email.

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