The number of Americans filing for unemployment skyrocketed to 6.6 million last week as the coronavirus continued to pummel the U.S. labor market.
Over the last three weeks, the Labor Department reported in excess of 16 million jobless claims. This includes applications for the week ended March 28, which were revised upward to a record 6.9 million, coupled with the 3.3 million already filed during the week ended March 21. Claims hovered at just over 200,000 each week prior to the widespread lockdowns instituted in mid-March. Economists anticipated that 5.5 million Americans would file for unemployment last week.
Meanwhile, investors are still bracing for more volatility ahead. Futures this morning turned green after the Federal Reserve released details on its Main Street lending program to help cushion the economic fallout for small and medium-size businesses impacted by the outbreak.
In the first monthly jobs report since the crisis swept the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday noted the first decline in payrolls in nearly a decade: U.S. employers slashed 701,000 payrolls in March — the first drop since September 2010 — while the unemployment rate jumped to 4.4%.
Footwear and apparel retailers have been particularly hard hit. The retail sector lost 46,000 jobs, as department stores, fashion brands and specialty retailers temporarily shuttered their doors across the country. A growing list of industry players that paid their workers during an initial two-week closure have since announced furloughs, layoffs and/or pay cuts for members of their executive and senior leadership teams.
Most of the data was collected in the first half of the month, just before the states and localities across the country imposed broad shutdowns and stay-at-home orders to help stem the spread of COVID-19, which has sickened more than 432,400 people in the U.S. and led to at least 14,800 deaths.
According to state officials, some of the jobless could receive their enhanced unemployment benefits as soon as this week as part of the $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law two weeks ago to help bolster an economy battered by the pandemic.
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Coronavirus Cost Retail 46,000 Jobs Last Month, Wipes Out Nearly a Decade of Overall Gains