A tsunami of jobless claims swamps the U.S. economy

Local News

SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV) — The staggering numbers from the U.S. Labor Department confirmed what many Americans already knew first hand.

The battle to stem the COVID-19 virus has claimed millions of jobs.

3.28 million people filed for unemployment benefits across the U.S. in the week ending March 21, four times the previous weekly record set in 1982.

That number shows the magnitude of the problem facing unemployment offices across the country and in hard-hit New York.

“Will you do a story about unemployment? I started the process on Tuesday and still can’t get it completed .”

That’s an excerpt from one of the many emails and phone calls we received since the COVID-19 mandated business closings.

According to the New York State Labor Department, the number of jobless claims for the week ending March 21 here in New York was 80,500.

That is 520% higher than the claims filed in the same week one year ago.

The number filing for unemployment the previous week was just 14,300.

As the newly unemployed tried to file for benefits, they flooded the labor department with 1,734,100 calls and more than 2,270,300  web hits.

The most recent economic downturn many American’s are familiar with is what is called the Great Recession which officially began in December of 2007 to June of 2009.

According to the BLS figures, New York’s busiest week for jobless claims during the Great Recession was in January of 2009 with 44,654 new claims, about half of what the state labor department dealt with this past week.

In the Great Recession, the nation’s jobless rate went from about 5 percent in December 2007 to 10 percent in late 2009 before starting to inch downward.

It was a painful time for many, but job losses spread over two years did not put the kind of unprecedented strain on the systems designed to help the newly unemployed we are seeing now.

“This shows the severity of the downturn, and the speed of it,” Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America Corp told Bloomberg News. “It speaks to the unusual nature of this recession — it is an abrupt plunge into recession versus prior downturns, where the shock has time to multiply. We could have very high numbers continue for the next few weeks.”


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