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Coronavirus drove 6.65 million to file for US jobless benefits last week, most ever recorded

More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — a record — as political and public health leaders put the economy in a deep freeze, keeping people at home and trying to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The past two weeks have seen more people file for unemployed claims than during the first six months of the Great Recession, a sign of how rapid, deep and painful the economic shutdown has been on many American families who are struggling to pay rent and health insurance costs in the midst of a pandemic.

Job losses have skyrocketed as restaurants, hotels, gyms, and travel have shut down across the nation, but layoffs are also rising in manufacturing, warehousing and transportation, underscoring how widespread the pain of the coronavirus recession is.

In March, 10.4 million Americans lost their jobs and applied for government aid, according to the latest Labor Department data, which includes claims filed through March 28. Many economists say the real number of people out work is likely even higher, since a lot of newly unemployed Americans haven’t been able to fill out a claim yet.

The U.S. government has not released an official unemployment rate, but economists say it has likely jumped to 10 percent, a massive and sudden spike from February, when the nation’s unemployment rate was 3.5 percent.

The gravity of the job losses is staggering. During the Great Recession era, the U.S. unemployment rate only hit 10 percent for one month in October 2010.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Aaron Sojourner, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota. “The scale of the job losses in the past two weeks is on par with what we saw in two years during the Great Recession."


Economist Heidi Shierholz has spend her life studying the job market and said she was shaking when she saw the “terrifying” number of job losses in March. Shierholz is predicting 20 million Americans will be out of work by July -- the worst unemployment situation since the Great Depression. That is her “best case" scenario if Congress does another big stimulus package to aid the economy.

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