Apr 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

How to understand the scale of American job decimation

Graphic showing unemployment claims
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via St. Louis Fed; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Sentence from a nightmare: 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, a decline from the previous week's 6.9 million.

The big picture: Over the past three weeks, 1 in 10 working-age adults filed for unemployment, Axios' Courtenay Brown notes.

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via St. Louis Fed; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via St. Louis Fed; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Why it matters: We're not even close to understanding the long-term ramifications of America rocketing from sub-4% unemployment to what could be Depression levels in about a month.

  • This is just the first wave, since we don't know how many businesses will fail while waiting on reopening or bailouts.
  • Once the lockdowns end, we don't know how businesses will behave in a world where the next lockdown is just a new outbreak away.

But we do know:

  • More pain is on the way, and it will be felt with savage inequity.
  • We mustn't become numb to the scale of these numbers.
  • We each must play our role: If you're not an essential worker, that means staying home and avoiding group gatherings.

The bottom line: Now is the time to behave in ways that you can recount with pride for future generations.

  • What's next: President Trump is preparing to launch a second coronavirus task force focused on reviving the U.S. economy, driven in part by the overwhelming number of Americans who have filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.
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