More than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. economy slid further into a crisis that is becoming the most devastating since the 1930s.
Roughly 30.3 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the six weeks since the government response to the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors and slash their workforces.
That is more people than live in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas combined, and it’s by far the worst string of layoffs on record. It adds up to more than one in six American workers.
With more employers cutting payrolls to save money, economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20 percent. That would be the highest rate since it reached 25 percent during the Great Depression.
This week, the government estimated that the economy shrank at a 4.8 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year, the sharpest quarterly drop since the 2008 financial crisis.
Yet the picture is likely to grow far worse: The economy is expected to contract in the April-June quarter by as much as 40 percent at an annual rate.
No previous quarter has been anywhere near as weak since the government began keeping such records after World War II.
As businesses across the country have had to lay off tens of millions of workers because of the government-ordered shutdowns, the economy has sunk into a near-paralysis in just a few weeks.
Factories, hotels, restaurants, department stores, movie theaters and many small businesses are shuttered.
Home sales are falling.
Households are slashing spending.
Consumer confidence is sinking.
With signs that the viral outbreak has plateaued at least in certain areas of the country, a few governors have taken tentative steps to begin reopening their economies.
But surveys show that a majority of Americans remain wary of returning to shopping, traveling and other normal economic activity.
The Economic Policy Institute has calculated that about 70 percent of people who have filed for unemployment benefits since the virus struck have been approved. Applications from the rest might be pending, or they might have been turned down. Some applicants might not have earned enough money in their previous jobs to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Consumer confidence, as measured by the Conference Board, has plummeted to a six-year low, and its measure of how Americans regard the current economy fell by a record amount.
Nearly a fifth of Americans expect their incomes to fall in the next six months, the Conference Board found, the worst such reading in more than seven years.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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