Another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment in the week ending April 3, meaning more than 16 million have joined the unemployment pool in the past three weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The figure was the second-highest week for unemployment on record. The highest came in the week ending March 28, which was revised to 6.9 million.
The U.S. labor force included 162.9 million as of March, meaning about 10 percent have filed claims in the past three weeks. During the Great Recession, it took two years for 8.6 million to lose their jobs and for the unemployment rate to rise into double digits.
The Department of Labor listed the largest increases in claims for the week ending March 28 as California (871,992), New York (286,596), Michigan (176,329), Florida (154,171), Georgia (121,680), Texas (120,759), and New Jersey (90,4380).
More than a dozen states specifically listed food services as one of the hardest hit industries. Around 95 percent of the U.S. is under stay at home orders, meaning nonessential businesses and restaurant dining rooms have closed. Numerous brands have seen a surge in off-premises sales as they’ve switched to a takeout/delivery model, but not enough to offset the drop in sales.
The National Restaurant Association said March was the largest one-month drop in employment on record for the industry. Eating and drinking locations, which represent 80 percent of the 15.6 million workers in the industry, lost a net of 417,000 jobs. That slice of the restaurant industry saw growth of 50,600 jobs in February, 29,000 in January, and 19,300 in December.
In April, the Association expects job losses at eating and drinking establishments to reach into the millions, which has never happened in a single month to one industry in the post-World War II era.
The millions of unemployed U.S. workers are rushing to file and receive extended benefits laid out in the recently passed CARES Act. The federal stimulus package earmarks $260 billion for unemployment benefits, including an extra $600 per week on top of funds received from the state. It also extends benefits to contract workers and the self-employed.
Also in the CARES ACT is $349 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses, including restaurants, that are contingent on those businesses keeping employees. Many operators are unsatisfied with the guidelines, explaining that it wouldn’t make sense to hire back workers when they cannot open. There’s also the possibility of hiring them, and then laying them off again once the loan runs out after two months.