10 million Americans file for unemployment, record numbers continue to grow

Ivana Venema-Nunez , Reporter

In the past two weeks, most of the jobs created in the last five years have been erased due to employers firing or furloughing workers, leaving 10 million people to apply for unemployment.

According to an article from the Washington Post more than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week setting the record in American history.

Many economists predict the number of unemployed is much higher, probably jumping to 10% unemployment, since many newly unemployed Americans haven’t been able to fill out a claim yet as a result of swamped phone lines and a crashed website  due to the overwhelming number of claims being filed.

As recently as February, the unemployment rate was at 3.5%.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Aaron Sojourner, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota. “The scale of the job losses in the past two weeks is on par with what we saw in two years during the Great Recession.”

As an employee, being “furloughed” means that you keep your health benefits, but on the flip side, you don’t get paid because your hours are reduced to zero. Furloughed workers are  eligible for unemployment but the company doesn’t lose them as an employee and economists say this is the best option.

“Don’t lay off your workers, furlough them,” Economist Heidi Shierholz said in the Washington Post. “The worker will still get benefits. They don’t lose their job. And companies don’t lose their workers.”

Many, like Eric Rosengren, head of the Boston Federal Reserve since 2007, are predicting a slow recovery as opposed to an economy that will “bounce back” because consumers may become uncertain about going back to well attended event or crowded restaurants.

“The public health aspects of this have not gone as well as they have in some other countries, so the infection rate and the mortality rate is likely to be relatively high in the United States. That also means the economic impact is likely to be more severe than in some other places,” Rosengren said.

According to the Washington Post, Rosengren urged Congress to do additional stimulus to make coronavirus treatments free.

Congress approved additional aid for the unemployed in the form of a $600 increase in weekly checks, a major boost in income for laid-off workers.

However, states are still struggling to implement changes fast enough and the state unemployment offices do not have enough staff to handle this volume of claims and questions, according to the same article in the Washington Post.