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En español | For the second week in a row, more than 6.6 million people filed a new claim for unemployment benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The temporary shutdowns of nonessential businesses to deter the spread of the new coronavirus have left millions of Americans nationwide without options for work.
The Labor Department reported Thursday morning that 6,606,000 people filed new claims for jobless benefits for the week ending April 4, a slight decrease from the previous week (261,000 fewer claims). Over the past three weeks alone, more than 16 million Americans have filed for benefits for the first time, meaning that roughly 10 percent of the nation's workforce has lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers age 55 and older certainly have been affected by the way the nation's economy has been brought to an abrupt halt by the outbreak. The unemployment rate for this group rose from 2.6 percent in February to 3.3 percent in March, and those figures do not even include the last two weeks of March when record-setting job losses occurred. Dealing with job loss can be especially challenging for older adults who have to figure out how to balance issues such as paying for retirement, managing health care concerns and overcoming bias when they look for new work.
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"For 50-plus workers, the crisis spotlights a range of challenges — some that they share with all workers and others unique to them,” Ramsey Alwin and Jennifer Schramm write in a column for AARP's Public Policy Institute. “These challenges include limited emergency savings, the effects of age discrimination in the workplace and lack of paid sick leave or extended paid family caregiving leave."
A new law called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act offers new assistance to workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. For example, workers who apply for unemployment benefits are now eligible to receive an additional benefit of $600 per week on top of what they would normally qualify for under their state's unemployment program. The CARES Act also makes it possible for gig workers — such as people who drive for Uber or Lyft — and other freelancers to claim unemployment benefits. To learn more about how unemployment works, you may read this explainer.