The number of US unemployment claims has hit 33.3 million since mid-March amid coronavirus lockdown, about 20% of the US workforce.
A further 3.2 million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week as the economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to mount.
The number of new claims reported each week by the Department of Labor has subsided since hitting a peak of 6.9 million in March.
However, they remain extraordinarily high.
The number of Americans collecting benefits has continued to rise, despite recent moves to start re-opening in some parts of the country.
Companies such as Lyft, Uber and Airbnb are amongst the companies that have announced cuts in recent weeks, as shutdowns halted significant amounts of travel.
The impact has been felt across the economy, affecting medical practices, restaurants and administrative workers among many others.
Economists say the monthly unemployment rate for April, which will be released on May 8, is likely to reach 15% or higher.
Just two months ago, the unemployment rate was at 3.5%, a 50-year low.
Since the coronavirus has taken hold in the US, the country has suffered its worst growth numbers in a decade, the worst retail sales report on record and declines in business activity not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.
Meanwhile, weeks of elevated unemployment claims have far surpassed the prior record of 700,000.
Food pantries have seen spikes in demand, and homeowners and renters have delayed monthly payments.
The National Multifamily Housing Council – an industry group for apartment owners – reported last month that nearly a third of renters did not make their full payment by the first of the month.
Economists are hoping the pain will ease as businesses gradually restart.
Retailers such as Gap have already announced plans for re-opening some stores. Others, including J Crew and department store Neiman Marcus, have been pushed into bankruptcy.
Moody’s Investors Service has predicted that the US unemployment rate could fall back to 7% by the end of the year, but that forecast depends on the virus. The longer the shutdown persists, the harder it will be for the economy to rebound.
Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska have allowed some stores to reopen after measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as the US death toll passed 51,000.
Salons and spas could reopen in Georgia and Oklahoma while Alaska lifted restrictions on restaurants.
On April 24, President Donald Trump walked out of a shorter than usual briefing, refusing to take questions.
The president has faced criticism after suggesting that injecting household disinfectant into patients could be beneficial.
Donald Trump’s remarks have been condemned as dangerous by doctors and manufacturers. Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested and even external exposure can be dangerous to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.
President Trump said on April 24 that the comments – made at a news conference one day earlier – were sarcastic and taken out of context.
Customers visiting the newly reopened businesses in Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska will be expected to continue adhering to social distancing measures. However, some cities and areas have decided to keep their lockdowns in place.
In Georgia, which has one of the fastest reopening timetables in the US, bowling alleys, spas, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors and other personal care businesses will be allowed to resume operations. On April 27, dine-in restaurants and theatres will be allowed to re-open.
With unemployment claims reaching 26 million people – or around 15% of the population – since mid-March, many states are feeling the pressure to resume trading.
However, health experts have warned that the steps might be happening too soon, amid fears they could spark another wave of infections.
After being criticized by President Trump, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp tightened some of the sanitation and social distancing requirements for restaurants.
In the April 24 White House briefing that lasted just over 20 minutes, President Trump asked people to continue to follow rules around social distancing and the use of face masks.
Also on April 24, President Trump signed a $484 billion economic stimulus bill into law, saying he wanted to “rush economic relief to our citizens”. It is the fourth Covid-19 relief package passed by Washington, and allocates funds towards greater testing, hospitals and a small business loan program.
The US has by far the highest death toll and case count in the world. But despite recording more than 890,000 cases, the US population of 330 million is much higher than other countries badly hit by the virus, such as Spain and Italy.
Recent steep rises in the daily US death toll are also partly due to the inclusion of “probable” virus deaths – on April 14, the CDC said their case counts would include both confirmed and probable cases and deaths.
A probable Covid-19 death is one that meets clinical and epidemiological criteria but has not been confirmed by testing.
It is also important to note that many mild cases remain unreported, so the death rate from confirmed cases is not the same as the disease’s overall death rate.
Testing efforts are key to tracking the actual mortality and spread of the disease. VP Mike Pence, the Covid-19 taskforce leader, said the US had conducted 4.9 million tests thus far, and that the government was working with governors to expand testing.
As more US states tighten measures to fight the
coronavirus, about three out of four Americans are now, or about to be, under
some form of lockdown.
The US has almost 175,000 confirmed virus cases and over 3,400 deaths.
It surpassed Italy last week as the country with the highest number of
people suffering from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee and Arizona became the latest states to order
citizens to stay at home, meaning 32 of 50 states have taken such steps.
Meanwhile governors are quarrelling with President Donald Trump about the
availability of testing kits.
New York City is the worst-hit place
in the US, with 914 confirmed fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins
Some 245 million people are already
under orders to stay at home, or facing such orders which come into effect
later on March 31.
Almost two-thirds of states have
issued directives for their citizens to stay put, while the remaining states
have localized orders in effect.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who
has been reluctant to impose a state-wide order, said he would instruct people
in four counties in the south – where more than half the state’s cases of the
virus exist – to stay at home. He said this would last until at least the
middle of May.
In general, the “lockdowns” allow people to only go out to get
essential supplies and medicines, or limited forms of exercise.
The economic consequences have been profound, with millions of people having
lost their jobs.
Asked how long the emergency will
last, President Trump said: “People
are talking about July, August, something like that, so it could be right in
that period of time where I say, it washes through.”
The president continued: “They think August, could be July,
could be longer than that.”
He said he was not considering a
national curfew or lockdown, though added:
“We may look at certain areas, certain hot spots as they call them.”
President Trump said he had not yet
decided to close the US-Canada border, but told reporters it was something the
administration was considering.
He also addressed issues of testing,
as the US has been criticized for lagging far behind smaller countries in
getting tests out to the states.
Officials said on March 16 that a
million tests were currently available and more would be coming this week.
“A lot of testing has been going on,” President Trump said, though he also noted that those
without symptoms should not get the test.
“Not everybody should run out and get the test, but
we’re able to handle tremendous numbers.”
Health officials also said they are
due to add 30 million masks to the US supply and are shipping out gear and
health workers to bolster local testing efforts.
Asked how he would score his
administration’s response to the crisis on a scale of one to 10, President
Trump said: “I’d rate it a 10. I
think we’ve done a great job.”
White House coronavirus response coordinator
Dr. Deborah Birx, who joined the president, issued an appeal directly to
millennials, asking them to limit social contact.
She said: “They are the core people that will stop this virus.
“We really want people to be separated.”
Dr. Birx also warned against
socializing even if people feel well.
She said: “We know that there is a large group of infected people who are
asymptomatic, who continue to spread the virus.”
VP Mike Pence, who is leading the
coronavirus taskforce, told reporters he had not been tested yet.
He said: “I’m in regular consultation with the White House physician and he said I’ve not been exposed to anyone for any period of time that has had the coronavirus and that my wife and I have had no symptoms.”
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.