Jaw-Dropping 10 Million Americans File for Unemployment in Two Weeks

Jaw-Dropping 10 Million Americans File for Unemployment in Two Weeks

Two weeks ago, 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits for the first time. That was a record-shattering number, fueled by layoffs as companies respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak, and it’s already been eclipsed. While economists polled separately by the financial company Refinitiv and the Dow Jones were expecting 3.5 million more jobless claims, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Thursday morning that a jaw-dropping 6.6 million more people filed unemployment claims for the first time in the preceding week.

That means that in the past two weeks, nearly 10 million people have lost their jobs. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis now predicts that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, 45 million people are likely to lose their jobs—unemployment in America could go as high as 32.1 percent. After the 2008 financial crash, unemployment peaked at 10 percent; during the Great Depression, it went as high as 25.

The number of unemployment claims represents a mix of both layoffs and worker furloughs. Last week, the department store Macy’s, for example, laid off 2,000 employees and then announced it would be furloughing the rest of its workforce—130,000 people. When furloughed, a worker isn’t technically fired but can still apply for some unemployment benefits. Still, furloughed workers are reporting that their unemployment claims are being wrongly rejected in some parts of the country.

In late January, Donald Trump’s secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, claimed that the coronavirus pandemic would create jobs for Americans by hobbling Chinese manufacturing.

During the last government shutdown, Ross told CNBC that he didn’t understand why furloughed federal workers, who were missing paychecks, didn’t take out “very, very low-interest-rate loans.” Ross, whose net worth is reportedly somewhere between $600 million and $2 billion, added that the 800,000 federal workers represented such a small amount of money that it was barely consequential, saying, “You’re talking about a third of a percent on our GDP. So it’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall.”

Last week, Congress passed an emergency stimulus that adds 12 weeks and $600 a week to preexisting unemployment benefits, which vary widely by state. That met opposition from some Republican senators, like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said, “This bill pays you more not to work than if you were working.” Graham and others claimed that if unemployment benefits are too generous, then laid-off workers won’t apply for new—and presumably pandemic-proof—jobs. Despite some Republican objections, Congress approved a one-time payment of up to $1,200 per taxpayer, tapering off to $0 for anyone making more than $99,000, though presumably they, too, would need money if they were laid off. Congress also approved a $500 billion stimulus fund for large corporations.

But the fallout is even bigger than a loss of income. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 49 percent of Americans get health insurance through their employer, which makes the spike in unemployment even more dire and will likely add to the existing strain on programs like Medicaid. Meanwhile, countries with strong public health systems and other social safety nets, like South Korea and Germany, have been aggressively testing and hospitalizing people in need.

Last week, a 17-year-old with Covid-19 symptoms in Los Angeles died of septic shock after being turned away from an emergency room because he didn’t have insurance. In Pennsylvania, an uninsured 78-year-old woman with flu symptoms refused to go to the hospital because she was worried about saddling her family with medical bills—her son found her dead, and she posthumously tested positive for coronavirus.


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Source : Luke Darby Link

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