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A Record 6.6 Million Americans File for Unemployment Benefits Amid Outbreak

Last week's claims doubled from previous week as layoffs mount

People wait in line to apply for unemployment benefits

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Hospitality workers wait in line to apply for unemployment benefits in Los Angeles.

En español | More than 6.6 million people filed new claims for unemployment benefits for the week that ended March 28, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday morning. That number doubles the record 3.3 million people who applied for benefits the previous week, as the nationwide shutdowns intended to deter the spread of the new coronavirus have disrupted the finances of millions of American families and brought the world's largest economy to an abrupt halt.

"Similar to last week's unemployment claims numbers, today's report reflects the sacrifices American workers are making for their families, neighbors, and country in order to ‘slow the spread,’ “ Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said in a statement announcing the numbers. Scalia also noted that the department is working to implement the employment benefits of recently enacted legislation, including expanded paid sick leave through the Families First Act and an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act. Scalia noted that the CARES Act “also contains significant incentives for businesses to retain workers and continue paying them, which will put businesses and workers in a better position to resume work and re-boot the economy once the virus is contained."

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A record total of 6,648,000 people filed new unemployment claims last week, according to the department. All 50 states and the District of Columbia reported that the coronavirus outbreak — and COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus — was responsible for many of the unemployment claims filed in their communities. The states that reported the largest increases in new claims for the week ending March 28 when compared to the previous week were: California (up 692,394), New York (286,404), Michigan (183,080), Florida (152,687), Georgia (120,246) and Texas (120,171).

The new data suggest that the coronavirus pandemic is starting to affect more industries. Workers in restaurants, bars and hotels were among the first to be laid off or see their hours reduced, but employees in other industries have been affected now that many communities have shut down all but the most essential services. Many states reported rising unemployment claims in the manufacturing, construction and retail industries.

Some companies, however, are hiring to meet the rising demand they face in this new environment, including drugstores, supermarkets and other retailers proving essential food, medications and supplies.

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