U.S. unemployment continues to rise as another 4.4 million Americans filed claims in the week ending April 18, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
In the last five weeks, more than 26 million have filed for unemployment insurance, a new record. That represents about 16 percent of the U.S.’s workforce. The report said the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 11 percent for the week ending April 11. The downfall has erased the gain of 22 million jobs between September 2010 and February of this year.
The number of unemployment filings have fallen over the past three weeks, but last week’s total still dwarfs pre-COVID 19 numbers. The hardest hit states since March 14 have been Michigan (21 percent of workforce), Pennsylvania (20 percent), Georgia (17 percent), New Jersey (15 percent), Ohio (15 percent), and California (15 percent).
Earlier this week, the National Restaurant Association estimated that more than eight million jobs have been lost in the food and drink industry since the pandemic began, erasing two-thirds of the workforce. According to a survey by the Independent Restaurant Association and James Beard Foundation, as of April 13, independent restaurant owners reported laying off 91 percent of their hourly workforce and nearly 70 percent of their salaried employees.
In response to growing concerns, the Trump administration announced guidelines for states to use for reopening their respective economies. The plan is split into three phases, although states must see a two-week decline in symptoms and COVID-19 cases before moving forward.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said his state will allow nonessential businesses to open Friday and restaurants to open dining rooms on Monday. However, President Donald Trump said during a press conference Wednesday that he strongly disagreed with Kemp’s decision because Georgia doesn’t yet meet his administration’s guidelines for phase one. Governors in Tennessee and South Carolina have made aggressive moves to open their states up, as well.
As millions flock to unemployment offices to apply for benefits, many who’ve applied weeks ago still aren’t seeing any funds. The Associated Press found that seven out of every eight Floridians who filed claims in three weeks between mid-March and early April are still waiting for their claims to be processed. About 66 percent of claims in California and Texas and 30 percent of claims in New York are backlogged.
National Association of Business Economics Survey panelists said the economy is already in recession and will remain that way for the first half of 2020.
The panelists project a 12 percent unemployment rate in Q2. They believe it will lower to 9.5 percent by the end of the year and to 6 percent at the end of 2021.
The Senate approved $310 billion Tuesday to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which is supposed to help small businesses retain workers. However, restaurants have been critical of the program, saying that it only delays the inevitability of them laying off or furloughing employees a second time after funds run dry in eight weeks.