Apr 2, 2020 - Economy & Business

The coronavirus unemployment numbers in perspective

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios
Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Over the past two weeks, 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment, with millions more to come.

Why it matters: The jobless hits right now are like a natural disaster hitting every state at the same time.

Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and cost an estimated $161 billion in current dollars, making it the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history, Axios' Bryan Walsh reports.

  • But those affected could find safety and aid outside the disaster area, and America's economy barely experienced a blip.

The big picture: In America, losing your job isn't just losing a paycheck — for many, it also means losing your health insurance.

  • About 3.5 million Americans have likely lost their health insurance because of job loss in the last two weeks, Axios' Bob Herman reported, citing the Economic Policy Institute.
  • Medicaid will serve as the major backstop, but its ballooning usage will strain state budgets. It also won't be a primary option for residents of the 14 states that didn't expand the program under the Affordable Care Act, and those people instead will hope to qualify for low-cost ACA plans, Bob notes.

The bottom line: The crush of applications is so bad that some states aren't able to keep up.

  • Florida's "unemployment website is essentially broken, dogged by longstanding glitches and a crush of people thrown out of work because of the coronavirus," the Tampa Bay Times reports.
  • "[T]he office received 1.5 million calls in the last week, with a third of them coming from Floridians looking to reset their PIN numbers. The PINs are required to log in to the site."
  • The program's director apologized today and said the department will revert to paper applications.
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