Economists have characterized the decrease of jobs as “monstrous,” “stunningly awful,” and “a portrait of disaster.” The scale of layoffs and business closures is so deep, some economists are calling this a depression. The last three weeks have marked one of the most devastating periods in history for the American job market, as first-time claims for unemployment benefits have surged more than 3,000 percent since early March.
In the last month, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment, the Department of Labor said Thursday, April 2. The number of unemployed doubled in the number of reported applications last week alone. This is an incredible difference of 10 times the previous weekly record set in 1982. As many as 20 million people could be out of work this summer, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Businesses continue to lay off workers amid the coronavirus outbreak. Americans have filed nearly 10 million jobless claims in the last two weeks alone.
Getting hit the hardest
Private businesses lost 27,000 jobs in March alone, according to a private survey from payroll processor ADP.
ADP said small businesses took the biggest hit, losing 90,000 jobs, while medium-sized and large companies were still hiring workers. It’s the first time since September 2017, when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the southeast, that ADP has reported a job loss.
Filing for unemployment
The rules of who can file for unemployment benefits vary by state. Nevertheless, the government has waived some restrictions across the board. Independent contractors and self-employed workers, for example, who typically don’t qualify, can now temporarily receive benefits through a pandemic unemployment assistance program Congress created.
The government passed the CARES Act to combat the effects from the coronavirus outbreak last week to compensate for the loss.
Changes to unemployment insurance program
In its recent updated stimulus package, Congress made several severe changes to the unemployment insurance program, such as:
- Jobless workers will soon get an extra $600 a week on top of their state benefits, for up to four months. This financial aid will significantly boost people’s payments.
- Lawmakers will be allotted 13 weeks of extended benefits, on top of state programs, which vary between up to 12 and 28 weeks.
- The expansion of eligibility to those who are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable to work because of the virus and don’t qualify for traditional benefits. This also includes independent contractors, the self-employed, and gig economy workers (non-traditional contractors). The pandemic program benefits mirror what’s available in one’s state.
Congress is allowing states to relax some of the rules to make it easier to approve applications.
The extended benefits and pandemic program will end by December 31, 2020, as of now.