Mar 19, 2020 - Economy & Business

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

The coronavirus pandemic is hitting Main Street

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America is grinding to a near halt to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. It's wreaking unprecedented havoc on the restaurant and retail industries — and their millions of workers.

Why it matters: Amid all the discussion about how the pandemic is roiling Wall Street, its most acute impact is being felt on Main Streets around the country.

Coronavirus outbreak has likely already pushed multiple countries into recession

A trader at the New York Stock Exchange on March 5. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Michael Nagle via Getty Images

Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields fell to under 0.5% with the 30-year below 1% for the first time ever, oil plummeted by as much as 31%, Australia's ASX index lost 7.3% (its worst day since the financial crisis) and markets in Asia and Europe cratered.

What happened: The economic shock of the coronavirus looks set to worsen as more places around the world, including the U.S., may institute quarantine measures that would severely reduce consumer activity.

Amazon seeking to hire 100,000 new workers to meet coronavirus demand

Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Amazon is planning to hire 100,000 new warehouse and delivery workers in the U.S. to meet the growing demand for online shopping amid mass business shutdowns due to the coronavirus, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has rocked the economy, exposing inequality and causing many companies to cut jobs. The $2 an hour increase in pay will be attractive to many workers, but the hiring surge means 100,000 more people will go to work and not practice social distancing.