Washington: With a startling 6.6 million people seeking jobless benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark: Roughly one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks.
The figures collectively constitute the largest and fastest string of job losses in records dating to 1948.
They paint a picture of a job market that is quickly unraveling as businesses have shut down across the country because of the coronavirus outbreak. More than 20 million American may lose jobs this month.
The viral outbreak is believed to have erased nearly one-third of the economy's output in the current quarter. Forty-eight states have closed non-essential businesses. Restaurants, hotels, department stores and small businesses have laid off millions as they struggle to pay bills at a time when their revenue has vanished.
All told, in the past three weeks, 16.6 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.
The unemployment rate could hit 15% when the April employment report is released in early May.
The US government is set to report another shocking level of unemployment claims Thursday even after nearly 10 million people applied for benefits in the previous two weeks because of business shutdowns from the coronavirus.
The number will likely keep increasing, in part because many states are still clearing out backlogs of applications for unemployment aid.
And with more companies running through their cash cushions as the virus-related shutdowns persist, they are resorting to layoffs to save money.
Up to 50 million jobs are vulnerable to coronavirus-related layoffs, economists say about one-third of all the jobs in the United States.
That figure is based on a calculation of positions that are deemed non-essential by state and federal governments and that cannot be done from home.
It's unlikely all those workers will be laid off or file a jobless claim. But it suggests the extraordinary magnitude of unemployment that could result from the pandemic.