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Expand chart
Source: St. Louis Fed; Chart: Axios Visuals

It's the most stunning chart of this crisis yet — the number of people filing for unemployment spiked to 3.3 million last week, a number unprecedented in U.S. history.

Why it matters: This is a picture of what happens when a huge swath of the economy comes to a very sudden stop. But it tells us very little about how bad this recession is turning out to be. We're not going to get useful data on that for another month or so.

The big picture: In a recession, millions of people become unemployed. But in a normal recession, that process can take months or even years. This time around, the layoffs are being squeezed into a matter of weeks.

  • By the numbers: If unemployment claims continue at this pace for another four weeks, we'll end up seeing half as many workers laid off as lost their jobs during the 2008–09 Great Recession. On the other hand, if these numbers continue for 16 weeks, it will be twice as bad. The only way to tell which way we're going is to wait and see.
  • The March jobs report, out on April 3, reports on employment from the second week of March — too early to reflect the impact of the coronavirus shutdown. The first post-crisis jobs report will be the April one, out on May 8.

What they're saying: In this recession, "It's like an umpire whistled all the players off the economic playing field," University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers tells Axios. In order to get the much-coveted V-shaped recovery, he adds, "they need to be able to whistle us back on."

The bottom line: In order for government officials to be able to persuade Americans to go back to normal, we have to be able to trust them when they tell us that it is safe to do so.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Coast Guard searches for 39 people after boat capsizes off Florida coast

A U.S. Coast Guard ship leaving its base in Miami Beach, Florida, in July. Photo: AP/Marta Lavandier

U.S. Coast Guard crews were searching into the night for 39 people whose boat sank off Florida's coast over the weekend after traveling from the Bahamas.

The big picture: A "good Samaritan" contacted the Coast Guard about 8 a.m. Tuesday to say they "rescued a man clinging to a capsized vessel" 45 miles east of Fort Pierce, per a tweet from the agency, which noted it was dealing with "a suspected human smuggling venture."

Scoop: Race to lead NRCC kicks off

Reps. Darin LaHood (left) and Richard Hudson. Photos: Al Drago/Getty Images (LaHood) and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) are both telling colleagues they plan to run for chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee for the 2024 cycle, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are confident they'll win the House majority back this fall, and the early jockeying to lead the caucus' fundraising apparatus is just another indicator of their optimism.

Scoop: White House plans expedited resettlement for Afghan refugees

Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders enter a processing center at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, last August. Photo: Sgt. Jimmie Baker/U.S. Army via Getty Images

President Biden's advisers are crafting a plan to accelerate bringing potentially thousands of Afghans to the U.S. from Qatar, according to a source with direct knowledge of the administration's internal deliberations on the subject.

Why it matters: As U.S. military leaders plan for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, the administration is still struggling to handle the aftereffects of its chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal. One challenge: how to care for tens of thousands of displaced Afghans — many of whom helped the U.S. fight its longest war.