The longest period of continuous job growth in the US has collapsed, as a record 3.28 million American workers applied for unemployment benefits in the previous week.
“In the week ending March 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 3,283,000, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week's revised level. This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series,” a news release by the Department of Labour stated.
It added that the previous high was 695,000 in October, 1982. That year, the national unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent, the highest since the great depression (when unemployment rates crossed 20 per cent). As of January 2020, the unemployment rate in the US was 3.6 per cent.
For comparison, just over 200,000 Americans filed for unemployment in the final weeks of March 2019.
The spike in unemployment is likely to have been driven by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced several businesses to close their doors and forced millions to lay off their workers. US treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had even predicted that unemployment in the US could reach 20 per cent, even as the Trump administration works on a $2 trillion stimulus package.
The number of confirmed cases in the US had been growing faster than in any other country. As of Thursday, the US had 69,684 cases and over 1,000 deaths.
According to the release, the highest unemployment rates overall were in Alaska, New Jersey and Conencticut. “The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending March 7 were in Alaska (2.8), New Jersey (2.6), Connecticut (2.4), Rhode Island (2.3), West Virginia (2.3), Illinois (2.2), Minnesota (2.2), Montana (2.2), Pennsylvania(2.2), and Puerto Rico (2.2). The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 14 were in California (+14,221), Washington (+7,624),
Nevada (+4,047), Pennsylvania (+3,212), and Massachusetts (+2,737), while the largest decreases were in Arkansas (-461), Alabama (-341), Puerto Rico (-171), West Virginia (-168), and Maine (-81).”