WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits in the two months as the coronavirus took hold at the U.S. has swelled to almost 39 million, the government reported Thursday, even as nations from coast to coast gradually reopen their savings and let people go back to work.
Over 2.4 million people filed for unemployment last week at the most recent wave of layoffs from the business shutdowns that have brought the economy to its knees, the Labor Department said.
This brings the running total to a staggering 38.6 million, a job-market collapse unprecedented in its speed.
The number of weekly applications has slowed for seven consecutive weeks. Nevertheless, the figures remain breathtakingly large — 10 times greater than usual before the crisis struck.
It shows that even though all states have started to reopen over the past three weeks, the occupation has yet to snap, and the outbreak is still damaging companies and destroying tasks.
“While the continuous decrease in claims is fantastic news, the labor market is still in horrible shape,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell mentioned during the weekend which U.S. unemployment could peak in May or June in 20% to 25%, a level last seen during the depths of the Great Depression nearly 90 decades back. Founded in April stood at 14.7%, a figure also unmatched since the 1930s.
More than 5 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus, and over 330,000 deaths are recorded, for example, over 94,000 in the U.S. and around 165,000 in Europe, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University and based on government data. Experts believe the toll is greater.
In other developments:
— President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have remained steady amid the catastrophe, underscoring how Americans seem to have made up their minds about him. A survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research says 41% approve of his job performance, while 58% disapprove. That’s consistent with remarks of him throughout his three years in office.
— Trump chose a trip to Michigan to tour a Ford factory that has been retooled to fabricate ventilators. He didn’t put on a face-covering despite a warning from the nation’s top law enforcement officer that a refusal could result in a ban on his return. The president was locked in a feud with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over the outbreak and also has threatened to withhold federal funding over Michigan’s growth of voting by mail.
— Whitmer has prevailed after lawmakers sued over her ability to declare emergencies and dictated sweeping restrictions. She acted anyhow, although the Republican-controlled Legislature did not extend her announcement in late April. That will be likely to be extended beyond May 28 and means her decree stands, which has drawn anger from gun-toting protesters.
Some businesses have begun to rehire their laid-off workers around the U.S. as countries have eased movement and commerce restrictions. For the first time in 2 months, more than 130,000 workers at the three American automakers, including Toyota and Honda, returned to their factories on Monday.
Major employers keep cutting tasks. Uber stated this week because demand for rides has plummeted. It will lay 3,000 more workers off. Last week, the owner of The Economist magazine, Quartz and BuzzFeed, magazine giant Conde Nast and also digital publishers Vice announced job cuts.
Stephen Stanley said because they are occurring even as nations reopen, the layoffs might be particularly worrisome.
“There’s a high probability that those earners could last for more than those who were a function of (businesses) just being closed,” Stanley said.
The latest figures don’t imply 38.6 million people are from work. Some are called back, and new jobs have been landed by others. Nevertheless, the majority are unemployed.
An additional 1.2 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week under a national program, which makes self-indulgent, contractor, and gig workers eligible for the first time. However, these figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations, so the government does not include them in the number of applications.
Alexis Weber, laid off from her job as a bartender at an Atlanta restaurant, said it was a battle to secure unemployment benefits — she had to wait to get her very first payment and registered on April 1. She’s not sure if she’ll want to go back, or if her employer will want her again.
“Social distancing doesn’t apply nicely to the hospitality industry,” Weber said. “I don’t feel safe returning at the moment.”
One employee, Norman Boughman, received an email a week in a secondhand clothing store in Richmond, Virginia, where he worked part-time, requesting him to go back from his boss. But even with a mask, he worries about his health.
“We have to sort through people’s things, and I feel like this places us at a greater risk,” he explained.
European nations have witnessed substantial job losses, but robust government safety-net programs in places like France and Germany are subsidizing the salaries of millions of workers and keeping them on the payroll.
Meanwhile, the plans are growing over by governments to utilize smartphone programs that are contact-tracing since their lockdowns ease, to resist the spread of the virus. The programs can help governments determine whether individuals have crossed paths.
British Security Minister James Brokenshire told the BBC that a program that was likely to be introduced with mid-May isn’t ready, suggesting”technical issues” were to blame. In the same way, France delayed a week’s roll-out of its program because of privacy issues and technical difficulties.
In terms of the search for a vaccine, drugmaker AstraZeneca said it had secured agreements to produce 400 million doses of an unproven and still experimental formulation that is being analyzed at the University of Oxford. It is one of the most advanced projects in the race for a vaccine.
AstraZeneca said it had obtained over $1 billion from some U.S. government research agency for the development, delivery, and production of this vaccine.
Round the world, the effort is raising worries over the chance of new ailments, to garment factories in Bangladesh and meatpacking plants in Colorado, from Milan, Italy.
China’s top financial official guaranteed higher spending to revive the economy and curtail job losses as the struggle persists from the virus, which emerged at Wuhan late last year. The budget deficit will swell by 1 billion yuan ($140 billion) this year to help meet targets that have creating 9 million projects, Premier Li Keqiang said in the country’s ceremonial legislature.