A record 3.2 million American citizens filed for unemployment in the week ending of March 21, according to the Labor Department’s report released Thursday — signifying the economic toll the country has taken amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This marks the highest number of jobless claims filed in a single week in U.S. history, the report states, and is a significant increase from the prior week, where 282,000 people filed for unemployment.
Prior to this year, the highest number of unemployment claims was 695,000 in October of 1982, according to the Labor Department.
Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, told NBC News that these numbers “are just the tip of the iceberg.”
“Businesses cannot plan for this kind of sudden stop of cash flow,” Swonk said. “This isn’t a ‘rainy day fund’ situation.”
In order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, businesses across the country have closed indefinitely, causing many Americans to be laid off from their jobs.
But President Donald Trump has indicated he would like the shutdown to end as quickly as possible, though health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci— the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases — said that the president’s hopeful April 12 date may not be safe if the virus isn’t contained.
“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump said Tuesday during a virtual town hall hosted by Fox News.
Epidemic experts have warned that rushing the decision to resume normal business so quickly could be dangerous, as health officials are continuing to urge people to stay home to slow new infections.
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On Wednesday night, the Senate unanimously approved a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, which is expected to pass in the House on Friday.
Provisions of the massive bill include granting one-time $1,200 checks to individual people making up to $75,000 a year, $100 billion in assistance to hospitals, $350 billion in assistance to small businesses, $500 billion in aid for corporations — including airline companies and cruise lines — and about $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds.
The bill is also expected to increase the maximum unemployment benefit that a state gives to an individual by $600 per week.
As of Thursday morning, March 26, there are at least 68,534 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States and a total of 990 people have died, according to the New York Times.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
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