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Unemployment claims suddenly surged by 70,000 last week

Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi says a payroll tax rebate could provide rapid financial support for small businesses disrupted by the coronavirus.

Posted: Mar 19, 2020 9:20 AM
Updated: Mar 19, 2020 9:30 AM


The coronavirus pandemic is already costing many people their jobs. The first proof of that came in Thursday morning, when a government report showed weekly jobless claims in the United States spiked to their highest level in two-and-a-half years.

The US Labor Department reported that 281,000 Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits in the week ending March 14 — a sudden 70,000 jump from the week before, and 60,000 claims more than economists had expected. It marked the highest level in initial claims since the week ending September 2, 2017, when claims spiked in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Last week's sudden increase is 'clearly attributable to impacts from the COVID-19 virus,' the Department of Labor said in release.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the US job market was on strong footing and initial unemployment insurance claims had been hovering between roughly 210,000 and 230,000 a week.

The sudden jump marked a 33% increase, the biggest increase in percentage terms since 1992, and 'bigger than anything we saw during the Great Recession,' noted Heidi Shierholz, senior economist for the Economic Policy Institute and former chief economist for the US Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, 1.7 million Americans filed for continued claims (their second week of unemployment benefits or more) in the week ending March 7. That number was barely changed from the week before, reflecting the strong US labor market before the pandemic accelerated.

This number is also expected to jump in the near term.

The number of jobless claims will get more and more attention in the months to come as it is published on a weekly basis, tracking the real economy much more closely than monthly or quarterly government data, which is published with a longer lag.

Layoffs are expected to worsen significantly as the coronavirus crisis is forcing businesses to readjust.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 160380

Reported Deaths: 2713
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23573377
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Madison942298
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Russell19603
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Coffee180711
Dale178952
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Escambia174931
Chambers136847
Clarke136617
Pike134514
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Marion110331
Barbour10429
Marengo102622
Butler101241
Winston94013
Geneva9217
Lawrence86933
Pickens86918
Bibb85015
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Hale77730
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Clay75312
Washington75112
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Monroe65510
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Perry5956
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Macon53920
Lamar5085
Sumter47421
Choctaw39312
Greene34616
Coosa2093
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Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 251774

Reported Deaths: 3207
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby36855568
Davidson32175341
Knox1295692
Rutherford12143115
Hamilton11952110
Williamson723556
Sumner6230112
Wilson478560
Putnam449957
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Out of TN417134
Madison385180
Sullivan384648
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Maury340738
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Gibson219249
Coffee194326
Hardeman190933
Greene182154
Obion181123
Trousdale17778
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Anderson172714
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Fayette170825
McMinn167337
Lawrence166520
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Cumberland162327
Wayne16067
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Jefferson157522
Monroe148629
Warren146110
Lauderdale145117
Henderson142626
Hardin141622
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Roane13467
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Overton123218
White120014
Johnson11667
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Rhea113018
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Cheatham107912
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Smith100514
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Lincoln9253
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Henry80912
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Polk52713
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Morgan4447
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