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Coronavirus: US Unemployment benefit claims skyrocket to 3.283 million

GOVERNMENT OF MALAWI: STATEMENT ON CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK(COVID-19)

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy, and data released Thursday morning reflected the severe damage being done to the labor market.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits skyrocketed to a record-breaking 3.283 million for the week ended March 21. Consensus expectations were for 1.64 million claims. The previous record was 695,000 claims filed the week ended October 2, 1982. Initial jobless claims for the week ended March 14 was revised higher to 282,000 from 281,000 and was the largest single-week increase since the Great Recession.

“Millions of Americans are filing for benefits, and that means the economy is not just staring down at the abyss, it has fallen off the cliff and down into the depths of recession,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, said in an email Thursday. “How far it goes is anyone’s guess, but certainly close to 10 million people are out of work, and this means the official unemployment rate will match the 10% threshold of pain reached in the 1981-82 and 2007-09 recessions.”

“In previous deep recessions, most notably in 2008 and 1980, initial claims during the worst four weeks of the recession would total 2 [million],” Nomura economist Lewis Alexander wrote in a note to clients March 22. “That is consistent with the shock from COVID-19 compressing a significant deterioration in the labor market into a much shorter period relative to previous contractions.”

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