Unemployment claims hit record 3M due to virus crisis as officials say bailout checks won’t land till May

A RECORD 3.3 million US worked have been forced to file for unemployment benefit in a single week as the coronavirus outbreak hits the US economy.

The figures comes after the Senate unanimously passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, though reports suggest new unemployment benefits are unlikely to be paid for weeks.

People queue outside a career center in Las Vegas, where the coronavirus has seen non-essential businesses closed

Workers leave the New York State Department of Labor

Labor Department data show a rise that the 3.28 million people claiming benefits last week is up from 281,000 the week before.

The number is the highest ever recorded, quadrupling the last record of 695,000, set the week ending 2 October 1982.

The coronavirus has now infected more than 68,000 people, behind only Italy and China globally, and is expected to surpass both in the coming weeks.

The death toll from the outbreak now stands at 1,032, and regional lockdowns have seen businesses cease trading across the country.

Economists have forecast the rate of unemployment could reach as high as 13 percent in May.

That would exceed the last peak of 10.0 percent reached in October 2009 following the financial crash the previous year.

The unemployment rate has been stable at around 3.5 percent since September last year.

PAYMENTS BEFORE MAY ‘EXTREMELY UNLIKELY’

The Senate yesterday also passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill to try to support the economy through the coming disruption.

One provision in the bill would provide an additional $600 a week to the unemployed on top of aid provided by states.

Another would add 13 weeks to the six months’ of unemployment benefits offered by most states.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said direct payments will be disbursed as soon as April 6, but experts say that payments before May are extremely unlikely.

The bill is now nearing final approval in Congress.

The sectors worst hit by the epidemic have been accommodation and food services, though also badly affected have been health care and social assistance, arts, entertainment, transportation, and manufacturing.
Estimates suggest the economy could shrink at its steepest pace ever and contract by 30 percent over the year.

North Carolina yesterday became the latest state to declare a “major virus disaster”, bringing the number of Americans living in emergency zones to 140 million.

Other states to have declared a disaster include Texas, Florida, New York, California, Iowa, Washington, and Louisiana.

The president has so far resisted calls to put the country on lockdown, but has rowed back on a pledge to get the country “back to work” by Easter.

Volunteers prepare care packages for unemployed people in Washington, DC

Hospitality workers wait in line to apply for unemployment benefits

A shop front in Detroit with a ‘Closed’ sign on its door

Medical workers prepare for testing at a drive-through clinic in Illinois

Medical workers prepare for testing at a drive-through clinic in Illinois