36 Million Now Unemployed Since Covid-19 Started, 3 Million More Jobless Claims Filed Last Week

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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36 million people are unemployed since Covid-19 hit 2 months ago. Those already financially vulnerable are hit hardest. “It’s like we have the same storm, but we have very different shelters.” A resident copies down the Mississippi unemployment benefit website after being unable to enter the state WIN Job Center in North Jackson, Miss., April 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

About 35 million people have filed jobless claims in the last two months — 3 million in the last week alone — since coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and reduce their payroll or worse.

The unemployment rate was at 14.7 percent in April compared to 4.4 percent in March.

The Federal Reserve released a report on Thursday detailing who has been hurt by the economic crisis. Nearly 40 percent of low-earning households experienced job losses and those who were already financially vulnerable have been hit hardest by the quarantine shutdowns.

The unemployment rate among African American workers jumped from 5.8 percent in February and 6.7 percent in March to 16.7 percent in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares with 14.2 percent unemployment for whites in April, 14.5 percent for Asians and 18.95 percent for Latinos.

The gap was even higher for education: Unemployment for workers with less than a high school education was 21.2 percent in April and 17.3 percent for high school graduates — more than double the jobless rate for people with college degrees, LA Times reported.

“While we are all affected, the burden has fallen most heavily on those least able to bear it,” said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, Guardian reported.

The number of first-time applications for unemployment has declined for six straight weeks, but unemployed workers in some states are still not receiving benefits or report difficulty applying. These include freelance, gig and self-employed workers, according to LA Times.

Data from private firms suggest that some previously laid-off workers have started to return to small businesses as states ease lockdowns. Georgia leads the easing of lockdowns, controversially allowing barber shops, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors and gyms to reopen. South Carolina has reopened beach hotels, and Texas has reopened shopping malls.

The federal government’s nearly $3-trillion CARES Act provided pandemic relief, filling some of the gap in lost incomes and enabling some forbearance from landlords, mortgage lenders and others.

But the longer the unemployment continues, the more long-term or permanent damage is expected — especially to low-income workers.

“It’s like we have the same storm, but we have very different shelters,” said Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, according to the LA Times. “Some of us are well-sheltered. We can tele-work. We (have) college degrees. The work we do is more resilient to the shelter-in-place and the coronavirus.”

Others are “almost completely unsheltered,” she said. “When we shut down the economy, they have to go home. … And they’re in industries that may be the slowest to recover.”

The data is probably underestimating the jobless numbers, according to the Fed study.

Along with new numbers on jobless insurance claims, the nation’s real unemployment in April was closer to 20 percent than the 14.7 percent reported on Friday by the government. In addition to about 20 percent of the working adults laid off in March, another 6 percent had their hours cut or took unpaid leave.

Investment banker Goldman Sachs now projects a jobless rate of 25 percent in Q2 — the equivalent of peak unemployment during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Almost every business sector has experienced some job losses, Washington Post reported. The biggest losses were in service sectors as follows:

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  • 7.7 million jobs lost in leisure and hospitality (hotels, restaurants, movies and sports events)
  • 2.5 million jobs lost in retail and wholesale sector
  • 2.5 million jobs lost in education and healthcare
  • 2.1 million jobs lost in professional and business services (lawyers, accountants, advertising salespeople and computer experts).

Economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics said he predicts unemployment will peak at 17 percent.

“I struggle to even to put into words how large this drop is,” wrote economist Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think-tank, in a commentary. “It’s as if … all the jobs in all the states beginning with the letter ‘M’ simply disappeared in the last month. That’s all the jobs in Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and Montana combined.”