Coronavirus: One tenth of US workforce now unemployed as government struggles to process benefits

Nearly 17 million Americans requesting unemployment benefits since mid-March

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 09 April 2020 14:45
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A US jobs report published on Thursday showed 6.6 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of society, with nearly 10 percent of the workforce seeking aid.

The surge in applications for government benefits has caused processing issues across the country, according to reports, and applicants have said they experienced website crashes and delayed payments when filing for unemployment.

Governors in the vast majority of states have issued stay-at-home orders as restaurants and businesses closed their doors to the public, laying off millions of Americans in the process. Unemployment applications quickly skyrocketed to historic, record-breaking levels in recent weeks, with nearly 3.3 million applicants filing for benefits three weeks ago. A week later, nearly seven million Americans filed for unemployment - a number that was adjusted from previous estimates that placed the figure at 6.6 million.

Last week's numbers showed the pandemic continuing to have a profound impact on the US economy, as experts said the country had already slumped into a recession and could even find itself on the brink of a depression as the death toll from the novel virus continues to soar.

Analysts meanwhile warned a congressional relief package for small businesses was being rapidly depleted. Josh Lipsky, director of the Atlantic Council’s global Business and Economics programme, said in a statement emailed to The Independent: “Congress can provide reassurance if it moves quickly. The next stimulus has to get more creative than the last.”

He added: “This means debt freezes, direct aid to states, new measures to keep employees on payrolls, and US Federal Reserve backed digital dollars that get to everyone instantly, including those without bank accounts.”

Nearly 17 million new applicants have reportedly filed for unemployment benefits since last month. The latest figures come after the White House extended an initial 15-day initiative to slow the spread of coronavirus transmissions for an additional 30 days, and state officials warned their stay-at-home orders could last through June.

Despite the economic downturn and major losses felt on Wall Street, the stock market jumped on Thursday as the US Federal Reserve began working to inject $2.3 trillion in loans back into the economy.

The bank was providing loans to businesses large and small, as well as local governments and households afflicted by the recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 455 points as the Nasdaq and S&P 500 were both set for gains before the stock market closed before Friday.

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