More than 33 million workers have filed for unemployment benefits in the United States over the past seven weeks.
The latest evidence of the economic devastation from the coronavirus pandemic came Thursday as the U.S. government reported 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: Over 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 % 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 in recent weeks, scores of layoffs were announced for 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.”
U.S. stock futures followed European markets higher on Thursday even as data from Britain and the United States showed the ongoing toll of the coronavirus outbreak on the world economy.Futures for the S&P 500 were up more than 1 percent while major benchmarks in Europe were also higher. The gains held up even after the latest report on weekly unemployment filings showed that more than 3 million workers in the U.S. claimed benefits last week. Though staggering, the numbers show claims are continuing to decline since a peak of 6.9 million claims in late March. Also on Thursday, May 7, 2020, the Bank of England projected that the British economy would contract 30 % in the April-June quarter, and 14 % for the year. Investors have often looked past grim economic projections, and the mounting death toll, lately and bid up stock prices on expectations that the number of coronavirus cases will begin to ebb, and that they can expect more government support for businesses and markets. But they also face the prospect of a surge in new infections in other places, particularly as lockdown efforts ease.