Nearly 700,000 Ohioans and 16.8 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the past three weeks because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which continues to strangle the local, state and national economies.
Jobless numbers Thursday from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services are startling: 226,007 initial benefit claims were made for the week of March 29 to April 4, making it the second week in a row of more than 200,000 new claims filed by Ohioans.
Since March 15, the number of initial claims stands at 696,519 — nearly double the 364,603 claims filed for all of 2019.
Over the same period, 15,599 claims were filed by Mahoning County residents and 12,961 claims were filed by Trumbull County residents.
Across the U.S., 6.6 million more people sought benefits last week, causing the U.S. to reach a grim landmark: More than 1 in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks because of COVID-19. In total, almost 17 million Americans have sought help.
The figures collectively constitute the largest and fastest string of job losses in records dating to 1948. By contrast, during the Great Recession it took 44 weeks — roughly 10 months — for unemployment claims to go as high as they now have in less than a month.
Gus Faucher, chief economist for Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services, said that scale of job loss is unprecedented in U.S. history, but some of it may not be permanent given the federal stimulus bill.
“But still, the scale of job losses because of the coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions on movement would have been unthinkable just a couple of months ago,” Faucher said.
Over these last three weeks, Ohio JFS has distributed more than $124 million in unemployment compensation payments to more than 195,000 claimants.
The state continues to urge Ohioans who can to file online at unemployment.ohio.gov.
“We are hiring more people, working longer hours, and adding more technological capacity so that we can serve Ohioans as quickly as possible,” Ohio JFS said in a statement Thursday. “We have extended our call center to a seven-day-a-week operation and by the end of this week we will have close to 1,000 staff taking calls.”
In addition, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted during the daily COVID-19 public briefing said the state is “very aggressively” working with the private sector to build the platform for Ohioans who are independently employed to receive benefits. Later during the briefing, he said the Ohio JFS director confirmed that checks have been sent out to those whose applications already have been processed. Some applicants whose applications are more complex — such as having more than one job, not being eligible or other issues — are still in process, Husted said.
Federal legislation made job aid available to those who are independently employed, but there is no state distribution system. Husted, however, expects that system to be up and running by mid-May, if not sooner. Benefits would be applied retroactive to the eligibility date.
GLOBAL AND IN U.S.
The damage to job markets is extending across the world. The equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs could be lost in the second quarter to business shutdowns caused by the viral outbreak, according to the United Nations’ labor organization. It estimates that global unemployment will rise by 25 million this year. And that doesn’t even count workers on reduced hours and pay. Lockdown measures are affecting nearly 2.7 billion workers — about 81 percent of the global workforce — the agency said.
Around half a billion people could sink into poverty as a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus unless richer countries act to help developing nations, Oxfam, a leading aid organization, warned Thursday.
In the United States, the job market is quickly unraveling as businesses have shut down across the country. All told, in the past three weeks, 16.8 million Americans have filed for unemployment aid. The surge of jobless claims has overwhelmed state unemployment offices around the country. And still more job cuts are expected.
More than 20 million people may lose jobs this month. The unemployment rate could hit 15 percent when the April employment report is released in early May.
“The carnage in the American labor market continued unabated,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist for RSM, a tax advisory firm.
Also Thursday, the Federal Reserve intensified its efforts to bolster the economy with a series of lending programs that could inject up to $2.3 trillion into the economy. Chairman Jerome Powell said that the economy’s strength before the viral outbreak means it could rebound quickly in the second half of the year.
“There is every reason to believe that the economic rebound, when it comes, will be robust,” Powell said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.