Close to three million people filed jobless claims in the past week, bringing the total number of unemployed Americans to 36 million.
Some 21.8 percent of the American workforce is now unemployed, a result of mass business closures imposed to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. While the closures initially hit retailers, restaurants, and the hospitality industry, the shock has spread to other areas of the economy including health care and other professional services.
“The scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since World War II,” Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said on Tuesday. “Among people who were working in February, almost 40 percent of those in households making less than $40,000 a year had lost a job in March. This reversal of economic fortune has caused a level of pain that is hard to capture in words, as lives are upended amid great uncertainty about the future.”
President Trump has urged states to lift business closures when possible, however Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, has warned that social distancing recommendations will most likely remain in place through the summer. States including Florida and Georgia that are currently reopening businesses have imposed certain restrictions on the amount of customers permitted to congregate at the same time.