More Than 3 Million Americans Already Jobless as Coronavirus Pandemic Slams Retail

Amid the coronavirus crisis, jobless claims soared far past the previous high, with 3.3 million people filing, on a seasonably adjusted basis, for the week ended March 21.

This marked a rise of over 3 million from the previous week and was far greater than the previous record of 695,000 claims in October 1982. According to the Department of Labor, the rise is “due to the impacts of the COVID-19 virus.”

A week prior saw a total of 281,000 new claims on a seasonably adjusted basis — already the highest level seen in the U.S. since Sept. 2, 2017.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the job market appeared to be on solid footing. Unemployment claims had consistently hovered in the range of 210,000 to 230,000 a week. But the virus has led many state and local governments to put in place restrictive orders temporarily barring all nonessential business — slamming a variety of industries, such as footwear and apparel retail as well as food and beverage.

Across the U.S., fashion and footwear retailers ranging from department stores to athletic retailers have chosen to temporarily shut all doors amid the outbreak. Many brands and retailers, including sportswear powerhouse Nike, clog maker Crocs and department store chain Macy’s, have assured store associates that they will receive pay while doors remain shut for now.

The coronavirus could cause a record number of store closures in 2020, according to a report from Coresight Research. The firm estimates 15,000 gross closures could occur this year — up from last year’s record-high of 9,548.

Fast-fashion giant H&M has already indicated that it may have to permanently shutter stores and lay off tens of thousands of workers as it suffers revenue setbacks caused by the public-health crisis. And Nordstrom announced yesterday that it would furlough an unspecified number of corporate employees “to respond to the challenges” created by the coronavirus.

Early Wednesday, the Senate and the White House reached a $2 trillion stimulus agreement designed to help both businesses and individuals battered by the coronavirus. The deal would include $250 billion in checks to individuals and families, $250 billion in jobless insurance benefits, $350 billion in small business loans and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.

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