The number of people applying for unemployment benefits spiked by about a third last week in an early sign the coronavirus pandemic is causing job losses around the US.
Some 281,000 people filed initial jobless claims in the week ending March 14, the US Department of Labor said Thursday. That’s the highest number since early September 2017 and an increase of 70,000, or 33 percent, from the prior week, the feds said. The total is seasonally adjusted.
The jump is “clearly attributable to impacts from the COVID-19 virus,” the Labor Department said in its weekly report, using the medical name for the new coronavirus disease.
Several states pointed to layoffs related to the virus, and many reported an increase in layoffs in the service, transportation and warehousing industries regardless of whether they specifically cited the outbreak, officials said.
Experts expect the number will rise further in the coming weeks as pandemic-related layoffs spread and fears about a coronavirus-fueled recession grow.
Last week’s jump “sets a bad tone for the economy, although at this point most people are expecting a huge shock going forward, so what’s more important will be policy — especially fiscal stimulus,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for the Independent Advisor Alliance.
The virus has forced officials in some parts of the country to shut down restaurants, bars, movie theaters and malls, and some retailers have temporarily closed stores. Consumer spending is also expected to slow as people hunker down at home to stem the virus’s spread.