Over the course of three weeks after much of the nation was shutdown as a result of state-imposed social distancing measures, nearly 17 million Americans filed jobless claims — 3.3 million in the first week, 6.8 million in the second, and 6.6 million in the third. The previous high for unemployment claims in a single week was 695,000 back in 1982.
The reason for the economy-crushing “lockdowns,” of course, is the COVID-19 pandemic, which so far has resulted in over 500,000 confirmed cases and over 22,000 deaths in the U.S. While many polls have found that Americans have largely supported social distancing measures, the latest study by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has found that more Americans are worried about the impact of the virus on the economy than the virus itself.
According to the latest poll averages, FiveThirty Eight reports that 38.8% of Americans are “very worried” that “they, someone in their family or someone else they know will become infected with the coronavirus.” Another 36.3% say they are “somewhat” worried that will happen. The percentage who say they are “very” concerned has increased by about 6% over the last week. While a total of 75.1% say they are at least somewhat worried about the virus, 23.6% say they are either “not very” worried (15.8%) or “not at all” worried (7.8%).
While the percentage of people who are at least somewhat worried about the virus has risen over the last few weeks, it still does not match the number who feel the same degree of worry about the coronavirus’s effect on the U.S. economy. A total of 86.9% say they are “very” worried (57.1%) or “somewhat” worried (29.8%) about the economic impact. A total of just 12% say they are “not very” worried (8.8%) or “not at all” worried (3.2%)
In its analysis of the overwhelming concern about economic impact of the virus, FiveThirtyEight highlights the dire unemployment numbers, noting that the millions who have filed unemployment each of the last three weeks is “many times more than previous record highs.” Citing its graph of the polls, the site notes “the share of Americans who are ‘very’ concerned about the economy grew dramatically in the second half of the month, as cities and states began to shut down nonessential businesses.”
Along with the tracking polls on those two questions, FiveThirtyEight is tracking approval numbers on President Trump’s handling of the crisis. Opinion on Trump’s handling of the pandemic currently stands at 47.7% approval, 48.8% disapproval. Unsurprisingly, the pollsters have found that Trump’s approval breaks largely along party lines, with 86.1% of Republicans approving, while just 17.8% of Democrats approve. Forty-three percent of Independents approve of his handling of the crisis. Trump’s best performance in the tracking poll since the crisis began was 49.7% approval, 46.2% disapproval.
A map of the U.S. showing the number of jobless claims per state produced by Business Insider shows the national impact of the COVID-19 mitigation measures and which states have been hardest hit. “More than 2 million Californians and over 1 million Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment since the middle of March,” the outlet reports. “In 20 states, more than 10% of the February workforce filed for unemployment over those three weeks.”