The shift from employment to unemployment continues on a mass scale: 5.24 million people applied for initial unemployment benefits last week. This means that over 15 million people, or 10% of the workforce, have lost their jobs in the past three weeks alone.
This is the third week in a row of eye-popping initial unemployment filings, which are unprecedented in U.S. history. Though overall American unemployment rates have been higher in the past, the speed of unemployment is rising at roughly 5-6 fold previous records. Last week’s new unemployment claims were an all-time record, at 6.6 million, which is nearly 6% of the workforce over one Monday-thru-Friday period. To put this in context, that means for the past few weeks, an average of roughly 1% of the workforce have been losing their jobs every. single. day.
Though these numbers are devastating, it is worth noting that the CARES Act has expanded unemployment rules to make contractors and gig employees eligible to receive benefits, so comparisons to prior years’ claims are not quite apples-to-apples. (A similar week in 2019 showed 196,364 new unemployment claims.)
The numbers are still astoundingly sad: 22 million people are newly unemployed in the wake of this pandemic.