Florida’s benefits system has completely collapsed and people in other states are experiencing problems related to the congestion
A record 26 million Americans likely sought unemployment benefits over the last five weeks, confirming that all the jobs created during the longest employment boom in U.S. history were wiped out in about a month as the novel coronavirus savages the economy.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits probably totaled 4.2 million in the week ended April 18, according to a Reuters survey of economists.
Based on the median forecast, last week’s claims data would bring the cumulative unemployment benefits claims to roughly 26.2 million since the week ending March 21, representing about 16% of the labor force.
An additional 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week adding to a total of over 26 million since the coronavirus pandemic shutdown swathes of the US and brought its economy to a standstill, report Dominic Rushe and Amanda Holpuch in New York.
The pace of layoffs appears to have slowed slightly but a backlog of claims mean millions more are likely to file in the coming weeks. States across the country are encountering problems with the sheer number of people applying for unemployment benefits.
Delays in processing applications have boosted the weekly totals in recent weeks but economists believe the unprecedented wave of claims is near its peak.
In Florida, already bedevilled by the widespread collapse of its already flawed benefits system, just 14.2% of the more than 668,000 claims filed since 15 March have been paid. In Ohio, claimants now have to file on a specific day of the week, depending on the first letter of their last name, to ease congestion. Washington residents are complaining that the state’s website crashes or takes hours to respond.