Mar 19, 2020 - Economy

U.S. jobless filings jump to 2-year high ahead of coronavirus impact

Photo: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

U.S. unemployment filings surged to 281,000 in the week ended March 14 — a two-year high and an increase of 70,000 from the week prior — according to Labor Department data released Thursday.

Why it matters: There have been widespread layoffs, as municipalities began shutting down restaurants, bars and large public gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak — but, given that many of those economic hits only came in the last few days, this batch of data doesn't provide the full scope of their impact.

  • While economists at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute expect the economy to lose 3 million jobs by this summer, they point out that there is often a lag between when people are laid off and when they apply for benefits.
  • This is "just the leading edge of the labor market impact of the coronavirus shock, " EPI's senior economist and director of policy Heidi Shierholz says. "No one should take comfort if these numbers are relatively modest."

The big picture: "Given the job destruction that we are witnessing, policymakers and investors should anticipate first-time claims to soar toward the five-year moving average of 242,300 in the next few weeks," Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at tax advisory firm RSM, says in a note to clients.

Go deeper