US jobless claims doubled to record 6.65 million last week

Pedestrians are reflected in the windows of a closed restaurant in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach on March 20. Photographer: Scott McIntyre/Bloomberg

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits more than doubled to a second straight record as the coronavirus widened its reach and closed more businesses.

A total of 6.65 million people filed jobless claims in the week ended March 28, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday, as many stores and restaurants were forced to close across the nation to mitigate the outbreak. The prior week’s level was also revised up slightly to 3.31 million.

The figure topped all analyst estimates and compared with a median projection of 3.76 million.

Key Insights

  • The weekly claims data, usually the first to show a hit amid a downturn, highlight the extent to which U.S. businesses and workers are reeling from the global health crisis. Service providers — especially in retail, restaurants and travel — have been noticeably affected, though other industries have also reported weakness and layoffs.
  • Continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, jumped by 1.25 million to 3.03 million in the week ended March 21 — the highest since 2013. That pushed the insured unemployment rate up to 2.1% from 1.2%.
  • Friday’s jobs report is expected to show the first monthly decline in payrolls since 2010. Nonetheless, those figures will show only the start of the labor-market damage, as the government’s survey period covered early March, prior to the biggest rounds of layoffs and closures.

State Breakdown

  • California reported the most initial claims last week at about 879,000 on an unadjusted basis
  • Pennsylvania had about 406,000
  • New York had 366,000
  • Michigan reported 311,000
  • Texas had about 276,000
  • Ohio reported 272,000
(Updates with state breakdown)

–With assistance from Chris Middleton.

— By Katia Dmitrieva (Bloomberg)

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