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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits jumped to its highest level in two years for the week ending March 14, but that was nothing compared to the absolutely historic wave of job losses economists see coming.

The state of play: Goldman Sachs predicts that more than 2 million Americans will file for unemployment claims by next week, pointing to "an unprecedented surge in layoffs this week."

  • The upcoming March 15-21 period is expected to see "the largest increase in initial jobless claims and the highest level on record."

If Goldman's economic forecasters are right, the number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment benefits next week will more than triple the all-time high of 695,000 set in October 1982, and nearly four times the number seen at the peak of the Great Recession.

  • The numbers are expected to be so bad the Trump administration has asked states to hold off on releasing them before Thursday, according to a Wall Street Journal report, citing an email from a U.S. Labor Department official.
Data: U.S. Employment and Training Administration via Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The big picture: Thursday's jobless claims report is likely "only the tip of the iceberg: These numbers do not account for the surge of new claims from overwhelmed [unemployment] websites from coast to coast," Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the Century Foundation and an expert on unemployment, told CBSNews.

  • To wit, New York, home to 463,000 workers in the food and hospitality sector as of 2018, saw a 17,000 net decline in unemployment filings last week.

One level deeper: Based on anecdotes from a wide range of business contacts, Goldman's economic research team foresees "an unprecedented decline in revenues across many industries."

  • "Consumer spending on sports and entertainment, hotels, restaurants, and public transportation in particular have already dropped dramatically."

Another perspective: Analysts at Bank of America Global Research expect a slower jobs drip, with the U.S. economy losing 1 million jobs a month.

  • "We expect a total of approximately 3.5 million jobs will be lost," BofA strategists said in a note to clients before the release of the Labor Department's initial jobless claims report.
  • They see the unemployment rate rising to 6.3%, hitting the leisure & hospitality and retail industries the hardest.
  • "These sectors have a high share of hourly workers - about 80% for the former and 70% for the latter. And these workers struggle to work from home. This means they are vulnerable to a reduction in hours worked and likely outright job cuts."

Go deeper: The coronavirus economic pain in the U.S. has begun

Go deeper

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 5 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

Mitch McConnell's remarks on Black voters raise ire

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Capitol Hill news conference earlier this year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been widely criticized for comments he made this week about Black American voters.

Driving the news: When asked by a reporter Wednesday about concerns among voters of color, McConnell said "the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."