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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.