More than 10 million Americans lost their jobs and applied for unemployment benefits in March, according to the latest Labor Department numbers.
More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment last week as much of the nation was put on shelter-in-place orders and non-essential businesses closed their doors. Predictably, job losses are soaring in restaurants, hotels, gyms and retail stores, but the Labor Department data shows layoffs rising in manufacturing and transportation as well. The previous record was set the week prior to last, with roughly 3.3 million applying for unemployment. Until the past two weeks, the highest level on record was 695,000 in October 1982.
The past two weeks have erased nearly all of the jobs created in the past five years, and labor experts say the actual number of unemployed is much higher because many who have just recently lost their jobs haven’t been able to fill out a claim yet.
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act, signed into law last week, includes a significant increase in unemployment insurance. It expands the pool of people eligible to receive the benefit and also adds $600 a week to the existing benefit amount. States are still working to roll out the benefit.
Trump administration officials are worried the COVID-19 pandemic could cause the unemployment rate to reach 20 percent later this year. In February, the rate was 3.5 percent.