National unemployment numbers break records, North Carolina's continue to soar




  • In Business
  • 2020-03-26 15:28:14Z
  • By Charlotte Observer
National unemployment numbers break records, North Carolina\
National unemployment numbers break records, North Carolina\'s continue to soar  

The number of nationwide job losses announced Thursday - far eclipsing even the worst period of the Great Recession - shows the widespread economic impact coronavirus is having on the country.

More than 3 million people lost their jobs in the week between March 14-21. Even during the height of the Great Recession in 2009, job losses rarely exceeded 500,000 in a single week. They never once approached 1 million in a week, let alone the 3.3 million reported Thursday.

And the historic numbers are likely to continue rising, particularly as business closures and "stay at home" orders continue to be announced, as officials try to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In North Carolina, the number of new jobless claims only started ramping up toward the end of the period reported Thursday. The higher losses over the past few days have not yet been reflected in the federal data.

Between Monday March 16 and today, North Carolina has had 200,000 new unemployment claims - a year's worth of job losses, condensed into the span of a week and a half. Between Wednesday and Thursday alone, about 34,000 new claims were filed.

The reaction to the historic unemployment levels varied across the political spectrum.

Steve Mnuchin, who is Republican President Donald Trump's Treasury Secretary, went on CNBC Thursday morning and called the millions of lost jobs "not relevant."

Congress is working on a stimulus package, and Mnuchin said he thinks it will help businesses eventually re-open and re-hire their former workers. The stimulus plan also contains provisions that, if passed, would increase unemployment benefits and also give $1,200 in cash to many Americans, regardless of their employment status. He said Trump supports the plan and hopes it passes soon. The Senate has approved the package; a House vote is expected Friday.

"We're determined to get money in people's pockets immediately," Mnuchin said.

But Heidi Shierholz, the former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor under Democratic President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter that the 3.3 million lost jobs announced Thursday "is just the tip of the iceberg."

She said she expects job losses to rise to 14 million by this summer.

"I have been a labor economist for a very long time and have never seen anything like this," Shierhold wrote.

Of the 200,000 new claims in North Carolina, close to half have come just in the past few days.

The initial rise in claims began after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper ordered bars and restaurants to close, except for takeout and delivery, last week. The newer bump in claims came after Cooper ordered additional businesses like gyms, movie theaters and salons to shut down, which has also coincided with "stay-at-home" orders issued in many of the state's biggest metro areas.

North Carolina's real-time unemployment numbers were given to The News & Observer by state officials.

They haven't been reported by the federal government yet, and the Trump administration recently asked states to keep their unemployment numbers secret as long as possible. But experts questioned the wisdom of that, and North Carolina officials have continued making the information public.

"In my opinion, the numbers are important to follow because they give us one of the clearest measures of the economic impact of the virus," N.C. State University economist Michael Walden told the N&O last week. "They are also important for policymakers as they have ongoing deliberations about the level and type of federal help needed in the economy."

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