The Labor Department announced on Thursday morning that a record 3.28 million jobless claims were filed this past week as COVID-19 rapidly spreads across the nation.
The jaw-dropping figure eclipses the previous weekly jobless claim record of 695,000 in October 1982.
The number of unemployment claims the week ending on March 21 skyrocketed by over 3,000,000 from the previous week ending on March 14, which saw 282,000 claims.
This chart shows just how massive the spike in weekly claims was, per Heidi Shierholz, the director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute:
BRACE YOURSELF. I have been a labor economist for a very long time and have never seen anything like this. Here are last week’s initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims. (1/n) pic.twitter.com/fWhljQF9ww
— Heidi Shierholz (@hshierholz) March 26, 2020
The surge in jobless claims came amid the White House’s 15-day guidelines, which began on March 16, advising people to stay home unless they work for health care facilities, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other industries deemed essential during the crisis. The guidelines were crafted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, New York, California, and several other states have ordered a complete shutdown of all non-essential businesses as a social distancing measure to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC Thursday morning that the jobless figures were “not relevant” at the moment, because there are direct payments going out to Americans soon.
Mnuchin on jobless claims numbers: "I just think these numbers right now are not relevant, and you know, whether they’re bigger or smaller in the short term." pic.twitter.com/h9yo0YmeAX
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) March 26, 2020
President Donald Trump has been itching for a rollback of social distancing measures and to encourage Americans to go back to work once the 15-day period ends, claiming that doing so would boost the tanking economy. Trump said earlier this week that he wants the workforce to be “open” by Easter, which falls on April 12.
Several other Republicans have agreed with Trump’s push for an end to social distancing despite the risks, with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) going so far as to argue that the elderly, who are most the most likely to die from the illness, ought to sacrifice their lives for the economy.
This story will be updated.