Unemployment Claims Reach Highest Level In US History, Over 3.2 Million Out Of Work

Last week marked the largest increase in initial unemployment claims in history. Unemployment claims reached 3,283,000 for the week ending March 21, up 3,001,000 from the previous week due to the coronavirus.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the previous highest level of unemployment claims was in October 1982, when claims reached 695,000. Nearly every state cited the impact of COVID-19 as the cause of unemployment, with the accommodation and food service industries particularly impacted.

Other industries also affected by the coronavirus include health care, social assistance, arts, entertainment, recreation, transportation, warehousing, and manufacturing industries.

In 2019, there were 190,023 unemployment claims during the same timeframe.

For the week ending March 14, the largest increase in initial claims were in California, up 14, 221, Washington, up 7,624, Nevada, up 4,047, Pennsylvania, up 3,212, and Massachusetts, up 2,737. The largest decreases in the same week came from Arkansas, down 461, Alabama, down 341, Puerto Rico, down 171, West Virginia, down 168, and Maine, down 81.

If the COVID-19 stimulus package passes the House, unemployed workers will receive an extra $600 a week for the next four months in addition to their state’s unemployment insurance benefits, which range in pay from $200 to $550 a week and are paid for 12 to 28 weeks, depending on the state.

In the bill, unemployed workers affected by the coronavirus include those that are unemployed, partially employed, or unable to work due to the impact of COVID-19 as well as independent contractors, self-employed, and gig economy workers.

The US economy is closed for business and record numbers of Americans are expected to file for unemployment insurance Photo: AFP / SETH HERALD