retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post reports this morning that the US Department of Labor is saying that 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the past week, meaning that "more than 17 million new jobless claims have been filed in the past four weeks, a rapid and unprecedented escalation in unemployment in the United States since the week that President Trump declared a national emergency."

The unemployment figures result from the vast number of business closures across the country that have occurred as the country tries to respond to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, which has infected close to a half-million people in the US alone, and killed some 15,000 people.  While business closures, sheltering at home and physical distancing all are seen as affective responses to the pandemic, the result has been enormous economic pain.

The Post writes that "the 17 million figure includes new reporting from the Labor Department that even more people filed for unemployment in the prior week, pushing the jobless claims up during the week ending March 28 to a record 6.8 million, up from 6.6 million."

And, the Post adds, "There was hope that swift government aid for businesses would entice companies to keep workers employed and paychecks flowing, but job losses have mounted even after Congress passed a historic $2 trillion relief package.  Businesses small and large are struggling to get loans.  As companies run out of cash, they are cutting workers and telling them to file for unemployment benefits. But many states have been slow to distribute money.

"It takes two to three weeks to process someone’s unemployment claim in normal times. Since Trump declared a national emergency on March 13,  state unemployed systems have been overrun, causing even longer delays."

KC's View:

This doesn't just create economic pressure, but also political pressure to reopen sectors of the economy … but most public health experts argue that if we move too fast on the economic front, it will create big issues on the public health front.  If the economy is reopened and then has to be closed down again because of new or resurgent hot spots, it could do even greater economic damage.