About 4.4 million Americans filed fresh unemployment claims this week, bringing the total amount of jobs and paychecks lost since coronavirus shutdowns began to over 26 million.
The Department of Labor released the latest unemployment claims data on Thursday morning. Economists expected filings to remain at historically high levels this week after 5.2 million claims were reported last week. The number of weekly claims is a rough, rolling indicator of the severe economic toll lockdowns and the coronavirus is taking on the United States.
Gallup released a poll on Wednesday that found Americans’ fear of losing their jobs in the next 12 months had hit the highest mark on record dating back to 1975. A quarter of U.S. adults responded to Gallup’s survey, taken between April 1-14, that they thought they would lose their job in the next year.
Many of the claims accounted for on Thursday are likely from a backlog in filing that has built up as state governments have struggled to handle the torrent of filings that are arriving in unprecedented numbers.
President Trump has advocated for opening up portions of the United States in recent days, and a handful of states are moving to begin easing measures ahead of May. Georgia is taking one of the most aggressive stances in lifting its stay-at-home order and allowing businesses to resume limited operations.
Despite his desire for lockdowns to end, Trump criticized Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday for opening up the state too quickly, according to Politico.
“I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump said at a White House coronavirus task force briefing.
“I think it’s too soon, and I love the people,” Trump added. “I love those people that use all of those things, the spas, the beauty parlors, the barbershops, tattoo parlors, I love them. But they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit — not much — because safety has to predominate.”
Numerous protests have broken out in states such as Michigan, Maryland, and Pennsylvania over strict stay-at-home orders that are slowly bankrupting families and small businesses. The Paycheck Protection Program, approved by Congress to dole out loans to small businesses struggling amid the pandemic, ran dry last week and has yet to receive a fresh infusion of cash. The Senate passed a bill to put about $310 billion in the fund on Tuesday, and it is expected to be voted on in the House on Thursday.
Bankers responsible for processing applications for the federal loans and doling out the funds are warning lawmakers that the PPP will likely run dry again in a matter of days. Small businesses are scrambling to secure loans so they can retain workers and pay bills while unable to serve customers.
“This is going to go within, at most, 72 hours,” Consumer Bankers Association President Richard Hunt said on Monday. “But the odds are more like 48 hours.”
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