A record-breaking 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment in the week ending March 28, doubling the previous record set during the prior week.

The filings grew by 3.3 million from the previous week. The U.S. Department of Labor originally reported 3.28 million unemployment filings in the week ending March 21 (what used to be the weekly record), but later revised that number to 3.31 million. Before that, it was 695,000 in October 1982.

Nearly every state cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the rise in filings. The foodservice industry continues to be one of the hardest hit industries.

The largest increases of unemployment in the week ending March 21 were in Pennsylvania (362,012), Ohio (189,263), Massachusetts (141,003), Texas (139,250), and California (128,727).

The recently passed stimulus package, or CARES Act, provides $260 billion in expanded unemployment benefits. Eligible unemployed workers will get $600 more per week for four months under the new law in addition to the customary benefits from states. Benefits will extend to self-employed and part-time workers, as well.


The package also includes the nearly $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans to companies with 500 employees or fewer. The loans are contingent on employers retaining or rehiring employees. However, some in the restaurant industry question the viability of the program and make the argument that laid-off workers may opt to use bolstered unemployment benefits as opposed to returning to work.

Nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population is under stay at home orders and a majority of dining rooms across the country have been shut down.

According to UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, businesses with fewer than 500 employees represent more than 60 million jobs in the U.S. The school said these businesses have engaged in layoffs affecting up to 6.6 million people.

“Without effective governmental support, we expect this spate of layoffs to continue and even accelerate,” the school wrote on its website. “Our survey results suggest that jobs for up to 12 million more Americans working at small businesses are vulnerable in the near term.”

Several restaurant companies have announced major furloughs or layoffs including Ruth’s Hospitality, Chuy’s Holdings, The ONE Group Hospitality, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Landry’s, J. Alexander’s, Golden Corral, Luby’s, and Craftworks Holdings.

The National Restaurant Association said 5 million to 7 million jobs and $250 billion could be lost in the next three months. Mark Allen, president and CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association, said foodservice distributors will lose $24 billion in top-line sales.

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