The newest figures mean about 10 percent of the American work force is out of a job

By Rachel DeSantis
April 09, 2020 01:10 PM

More than 6.6 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment in the week ending April 4, meaning that approximately 10 percent of the United States work force is now without a job, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

The jump in claims brings the total over the last three weeks to about 16.8 million people. The figure — 6,606,000 — was about 261,000 people down from the previous week, which was the highest on record.

The staggeringly high numbers come in light of the coronavirus outbreak, which has shut down much of the economy and led to layoffs and furloughs across several of industries.

The hardest-hit states include California, which reported layoffs in the services industries, New York, which said layoffs came from the accommodation and food services, retail trade, and health care and social assistance industries, and Michigan, which reported layoffs in industries like manufacturing and construction, according to the Department of Labor.

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The number of claims seen over the last few weeks are higher than the U.S. has ever seen; previously, the highest week for claims was 695,000 in 1982, according to CNBC. The high for the Great Recession was just 665,000, in March 2009.

In early March of this year, the figures sat in the low 200,000s.

Heidi Shierholz, the director of policy at Economic Policy and the U.S. Department of Labor’s former chief economist, likened it to the entire adult population of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin applying for unemployment insurance in the last three weeks, and said that in a best-case scenario, the unemployment rate would still hover around 10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“Each and every one of the nearly 17 million workers who applied for unemployment insurance in the last three weeks is a person, a family, experiencing a life crisis,” Shierholz wrote on Twitter. “The scope of suffering is overwhelming.”

According to CNBC, the Federal Reserve announced shortly after the latest numbers were released that it would pour $2.3 trillion of financing into businesses and governments.

Meanwhile, the federal government also enacted a $2.2 trillion relief bill last month aimed at providing economic relief to Americans amid the outbreak.

The bill allocates $1,200 to individuals earning up to $75,000, and $500 for each child, and $2,400 for couples earning up to $150,000. Many Americans have now focused on how to maximize their amounts and receive checks or direct deposits from the IRS as soon as possible.

As of Thursday afternoon, there have been at least 429,264 cases and 14,820 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the U.S., according to The New York Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.