The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits surged to a record 3.28 million last week as businesses shuttered and laid off workers as part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In the biggest insight yet into the economic toll the pandemic is already inflicting, initial jobless claims in the week ended March 21 surged from 282,000 in the prior week and more than quadruple the previous record high of 695,000 in 1982, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday. The data date back to 1967.
Economists’ projections for the figure ranged as high as 4.4 million.
This shows the severity of the downturn and the speed of it,” said Michelle Meyer, head of US economics at Bank of America Corp. “It speaks to the unusual nature of this recession — it is an abrupt plunge into recession versus prior downturns, where the shock has time to multiply. We could have very high numbers continue for the next few weeks.”
Claims increased in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with nine states reporting increases of at least 100,000 from the prior week.