The Department of Labor reported that 3,283,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance benefits in the week ending March 21, 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the economy. The weekly report is among the first economic indicators to show the effects of the virus on the economy. This was an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week’s level of 282,000. This shattered records and was the highest level of initial claims in the history of the series. At its worse during the Great Recession, there were 665,000 first-time claims filed in the week ended March 28, 2009. That was second only to the week ended October 2, 1982, when 695,000 first-time claims were filed. This report compares poorly with the average 225,000 claims filed by people during each week during the past six months.
The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending March 7 was 2,006,363, a slight decrease from the previous week. There were 2,039,322 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2019.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 14 were in California, Washington, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
The sharp increase in claims is attributable to impacts form the COVID-19 virus. Many states reported increased layoffs in service-related industries broadly and in the accommodation and food services industries specifically, as well as in health care and social assistance, and the travel and transportation industries. States that depend heavily on tourism, were especially hard hit.
The increase in unemployment claims is a preview of the March unemployment rate to be announced by the BLS on April 3rd. Most analysts expect it to rise sharply from its February 2020 50-year low of 3.5%. In response to the expected sharp slowdown in the economy, the Senate approved a $2 trillion economic stimulus rescue package that broadly expands unemployment benefits. The deal will go to the House for a vote on Friday, March 27th.
About Beth Mace
Beth Burnham Mace is the Chief Economist and Director of Outreach at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). Prior to joining the staff at NIC, she served as a member of the NIC Board of Directors for 7 years and chaired NIC’s Research Committee. Ms. Mace was also a Director at AEW Capital Management and worked in the AEW Research Group for 17 years. While at AEW, Ms. Mace provided primary research support to the organization’s core and value-added investment strategies and provided research-related underwriting in acquisition activity and asset and portfolio management decisions. Prior to joining AEW in 1997, Ms. Mace spent ten years at Standard & Poor’s DRI/McGraw-Hill as the Director of the Regional Information Service with responsibility for developing forecasts of economic, demographic, and industry indicators for 314 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. Prior to working at DRI, she spent three years as a Regional Economist at the Crocker Bank in San Francisco. Ms. Mace has also worked at the National Commission on Air Quality, the Brookings Institution and Boston Edison. Ms. Mace is a member of the National Association of Business Economists (NABE), ULI’s Senior Housing Council, the Urban Land Institute and New England Women in Real Estate (NEWIRE/CREW). In 2014, she was appointed a fellow at the Homer Hoyt Institute and was awarded the title of a “Woman of Influence” in commercial real estate by Real Estate Forum Magazine and Globe Street. Ms. Mace is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (B.A.) and the University of California (M.S.). She has also earned The Certified Business Economist™ (CBE), which is the certification in business economics and data analytics developed by NABE. The CBE documents a professional’s accomplishment, experience, abilities, and demonstrates mastery of the body of knowledge critical in the field of economics and data analytics.
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