Jobless Claims Show Pandemic’s Impact in Near-Real Time

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Nobody wants to use the ‘D’ word, but the staggering number of job losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and its unprecedented shutdown of the U.S. economy has produced jobless claims figures never before seen - including during the Great Depression.

More than 15 million Americans now have filed for unemployment benefits in the past three weeks, with some 6.6 million registering for benefits in the past seven days alone, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Thursday, well past the 5 million in claims expected by analysts polled by FactSet. 

The three-week total now stands at more than 15 million, the highest on record. Continuing jobless claims - a rolling number - came in at 7.45 million.

While shocking, the numbers are arguably not even a real reflection of the current state of the U.S. jobs market, where people across the country continue to struggle to submit claims and where companies continue to face roadblocks getting promised stimulus funding to keep their workers on the payroll.

Still, the Federal Reserve’s surprise announcement of $2.3 trillion in support for small businesses, announced at the same time as the jobless claims numbers, did provide a bit of hope that the crippled U.S. economy will get enough economic support to eventually recover.

Indeed, the Fed’s announcement “seemingly overshadowed yet another devastating blow to the labor market,“ said Mike Loewengart, managing director, investment strategy with E*TRADE Financial.

Even with the processing difficulties, analysts and economists still expect to see staggering recorded job losses in April - by some estimates as high as 20 million.

The government reported last Friday that the economy shed 701,000 jobs in March - the most since the Great Recession - though that figure only reflected the start of the pandemic before the U.S. economy came to a virtual standstill. 

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