The US Department of Labor has announced that new unemployment insurance claims leapt by more than three million last week as the coronavirus pandemic hits the country’s economy.
There were 3.28 million new claims in the week commencing 15 March. One week earlier the figure stood at just 282,000.
Last week’s figure is the highest on record, and nearly five times higher than the previous high in October 1982, when it was 695,000.
The Department of Labor said that every US state cited Covid-19 as the cause, with the service sector, particularly hotels and restaurants, being worst affected.
New York City, which accounts for nearly 5% of coronavirus cases worldwide, recorded a 1,000% increase in new unemployment claims.
Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, said: “The coronavirus outbreak is a truly unprecedented event in American economic history.
“Unlike past economic slowdowns, the outbreak’s sudden onset is flash freezing the economy by forcing businesses to shut down and putting millions of American workers out of jobs.”
Nick Bunker, economist at Indeed’s Hiring Lab, said the news put the US unemployment rate at around 5.5%. “These numbers are a sign of just how much damage the labour market has quickly taken.”
He added: “Many of these workers were employed in industries that may have to remain shuttered for quite some time. We’re also seeing a general decline in the trend of job postings. All signs point to these numbers being merely the beginning of a rough road ahead.”