Coronavirus job losses for the past two weeks could match two years of the Great Recession’s job losses: Estimates of new claims filed are 10 million

In the last two weeks, Americans have experienced a net loss of jobs on scale with the two years of job losses in the Great Recession.

Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reported that a record-breaking 6.6 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance benefits in the week ending March 28, doubling the prior week’s 3.3 million, an eye-popping record that lasted only a week. New claims in each of the last two weeks dwarf any prior week in over 50 years of weekly data (Figure A).

Figure A

The U.S. is experiencing a record-breaking spike in unemployment claims: Initial weekly unemployment claims from 1967 to the week ending March 28, 2020

Week ending date Initial claims, seasonally adjusted
1967-01-07 208000
1967-01-14 207000
1967-01-21 217000
1967-01-28 204000
1967-02-04 216000
1967-02-11 229000
1967-02-18 229000
1967-02-25 242000
1967-03-04 310000
1967-03-11 241000
1967-03-18 245000
1967-03-25 247000
1967-04-01 259000
1967-04-08 257000
1967-04-15 299000
1967-04-22 245000
1967-04-29 255000
1967-05-06 254000
1967-05-13 231000
1967-05-20 230000
1967-05-27 228000
1967-06-03 248000
1967-06-10 238000
1967-06-17 224000
1967-06-24 218000
1967-07-01 209000
1967-07-08 240000
1967-07-15 241000
1967-07-22 240000
1967-07-29 209000
1967-08-05 221000
1967-08-12 202000
1967-08-19 215000
1967-08-26 213000
1967-09-02 218000
1967-09-09 231000
1967-09-16 220000
1967-09-23 209000
1967-09-30 204000
1967-10-07 231000
1967-10-14 206000
1967-10-21 223000
1967-10-28 207000
1967-11-04 222000
1967-11-11 214000
1967-11-18 198000
1967-11-25 191000
1967-12-02 196000
1967-12-09 221000
1967-12-16 204000
1967-12-23 219000
1967-12-30 216000
1968-01-06 222000
1968-01-13 222000
1968-01-20 221000
1968-01-27 198000
1968-02-03 244000
1968-02-10 210000
1968-02-17 196000
1968-02-24 193000
1968-03-02 190000
1968-03-09 204000
1968-03-16 190000
1968-03-23 200000
1968-03-30 192000
1968-04-06 191000
1968-04-13 171000
1968-04-20 183000
1968-04-27 251000
1968-05-04 209000
1968-05-11 194000
1968-05-18 199000
1968-05-25 194000
1968-06-01 199000
1968-06-08 192000
1968-06-15 194000
1968-06-22 189000
1968-06-29 194000
1968-07-06 214000
1968-07-13 186000
1968-07-20 180000
1968-07-27 205000
1968-08-03 206000
1968-08-10 218000
1968-08-17 192000
1968-08-24 193000
1968-08-31 188000
1968-09-07 189000
1968-09-14 195000
1968-09-21 191000
1968-09-28 189000
1968-10-05 185000
1968-10-12 186000
1968-10-19 191000
1968-10-26 182000
1968-11-02 181000
1968-11-09 183000
1968-11-16 192000
1968-11-23 199000
1968-11-30 162000
1968-12-07 188000
1968-12-14 195000
1968-12-21 192000
1968-12-28 223000
1969-01-04 190000
1969-01-11 191000
1969-01-18 192000
1969-01-25 193000
1969-02-01 203000
1969-02-08 197000
1969-02-15 192000
1969-02-22 192000
1969-03-01 201000
1969-03-08 191000
1969-03-15 189000
1969-03-22 181000
1969-03-29 183000
1969-04-05 182000
1969-04-12 190000
1969-04-19 187000
1969-04-26 177000
1969-05-03 177000
1969-05-10 183000
1969-05-17 179000
1969-05-24 180000
1969-05-31 187000
1969-06-07 192000
1969-06-14 182000
1969-06-21 191000
1969-06-28 203000
1969-07-05 227000
1969-07-12 210000
1969-07-19 206000
1969-07-26 192000
1969-08-02 196000
1969-08-09 203000
1969-08-16 199000
1969-08-23 199000
1969-08-30 195000
1969-09-06 182000
1969-09-13 209000
1969-09-20 195000
1969-09-27 193000
1969-10-04 193000
1969-10-11 200000
1969-10-18 199000
1969-10-25 205000
1969-11-01 198000
1969-11-08 211000
1969-11-15 197000
1969-11-22 217000
1969-11-29 202000
1969-12-06 202000
1969-12-13 222000
1969-12-20 232000
1969-12-27 223000
1970-01-03 230000
1970-01-10 242000
1970-01-17 268000
1970-01-24 256000
1970-01-31 239000
1970-02-07 256000
1970-02-14 265000
1970-02-21 271000
1970-02-28 242000
1970-03-07 262000
1970-03-14 271000
1970-03-21 264000
1970-03-28 276000
1970-04-04 273000
1970-04-11 305000
1970-04-18 374000
1970-04-25 349000
1970-05-02 334000
1970-05-09 318000
1970-05-16 303000
1970-05-23 296000
1970-05-30 301000
1970-06-06 301000
1970-06-13 298000
1970-06-20 296000
1970-06-27 291000
1970-07-04 277000
1970-07-11 288000
1970-07-18 294000
1970-07-25 287000
1970-08-01 261000
1970-08-08 266000
1970-08-15 300000
1970-08-22 303000
1970-08-29 297000
1970-09-05 324000
1970-09-12 292000
1970-09-19 325000
1970-09-26 333000
1970-10-03 350000
1970-10-10 327000
1970-10-17 334000
1970-10-24 330000
1970-10-31 327000
1970-11-07 336000
1970-11-14 314000
1970-11-21 314000
1970-11-28 337000
1970-12-05 308000
1970-12-12 306000
1970-12-19 289000
1970-12-26 321000
1971-01-02 303000
1971-01-09 288000
1971-01-16 299000
1971-01-23 312000
1971-01-30 292000
1971-02-06 296000
1971-02-13 282000
1971-02-20 268000
1971-02-27 290000
1971-03-06 297000
1971-03-13 287000
1971-03-20 291000
1971-03-27 300000
1971-04-03 299000
1971-04-10 279000
1971-04-17 284000
1971-04-24 288000
1971-05-01 290000
1971-05-08 293000
1971-05-15 284000
1971-05-22 295000
1971-05-29 299000
1971-06-05 301000
1971-06-12 295000
1971-06-19 299000
1971-06-26 291000
1971-07-03 277000
1971-07-10 264000
1971-07-17 313000
1971-07-24 304000
1971-07-31 308000
1971-08-07 349000
1971-08-14 325000
1971-08-21 320000
1971-08-28 307000
1971-09-04 359000
1971-09-11 312000
1971-09-18 302000
1971-09-25 308000
1971-10-02 299000
1971-10-09 313000
1971-10-16 299000
1971-10-23 294000
1971-10-30 283000
1971-11-06 301000
1971-11-13 295000
1971-11-20 274000
1971-11-27 278000
1971-12-04 299000
1971-12-11 280000
1971-12-18 269000
1971-12-25 244000
1972-01-01 279000
1972-01-08 295000
1972-01-15 250000
1972-01-22 263000
1972-01-29 269000
1972-02-05 276000
1972-02-12 266000
1972-02-19 258000
1972-02-26 254000
1972-03-04 257000
1972-03-11 264000
1972-03-18 266000
1972-03-25 264000
1972-04-01 258000
1972-04-08 274000
1972-04-15 259000
1972-04-22 259000
1972-04-29 265000
1972-05-06 271000
1972-05-13 266000
1972-05-20 267000
1972-05-27 267000
1972-06-03 264000
1972-06-10 268000
1972-06-17 275000
1972-06-24 286000
1972-07-01 350000
1972-07-08 297000
1972-07-15 318000
1972-07-22 276000
1972-07-29 247000
1972-08-05 250000
1972-08-12 246000
1972-08-19 256000
1972-08-26 262000
1972-09-02 258000
1972-09-09 259000
1972-09-16 258000
1972-09-23 255000
1972-09-30 251000
1972-10-07 263000
1972-10-14 250000
1972-10-21 257000
1972-10-28 234000
1972-11-04 255000
1972-11-11 242000
1972-11-18 271000
1972-11-25 235000
1972-12-02 226000
1972-12-09 252000
1972-12-16 263000
1972-12-23 246000
1972-12-30 225000
1973-01-06 226000
1973-01-13 245000
1973-01-20 229000
1973-01-27 214000
1973-02-03 228000
1973-02-10 226000
1973-02-17 216000
1973-02-24 218000
1973-03-03 225000
1973-03-10 229000
1973-03-17 228000
1973-03-24 232000
1973-03-31 222000
1973-04-07 247000
1973-04-14 230000
1973-04-21 243000
1973-04-28 236000
1973-05-05 248000
1973-05-12 238000
1973-05-19 237000
1973-05-26 238000
1973-06-02 232000
1973-06-09 246000
1973-06-16 237000
1973-06-23 242000
1973-06-30 237000
1973-07-07 248000
1973-07-14 232000
1973-07-21 241000
1973-07-28 250000
1973-08-04 256000
1973-08-11 265000
1973-08-18 258000
1973-08-25 254000
1973-09-01 242000
1973-09-08 252000
1973-09-15 245000
1973-09-22 246000
1973-09-29 249000
1973-10-06 236000
1973-10-13 246000
1973-10-20 249000
1973-10-27 235000
1973-11-03 246000
1973-11-10 282000
1973-11-17 254000
1973-11-24 233000
1973-12-01 256000
1973-12-08 266000
1973-12-15 272000
1973-12-22 326000
1973-12-29 300000
1974-01-05 269000
1974-01-12 340000
1974-01-19 321000
1974-01-26 291000
1974-02-02 302000
1974-02-09 369000
1974-02-16 311000
1974-02-23 292000
1974-03-02 301000
1974-03-09 305000
1974-03-16 315000
1974-03-23 314000
1974-03-30 323000
1974-04-06 296000
1974-04-13 297000
1974-04-20 296000
1974-04-27 283000
1974-05-04 287000
1974-05-11 296000
1974-05-18 298000
1974-05-25 309000
1974-06-01 278000
1974-06-08 314000
1974-06-15 303000
1974-06-22 308000
1974-06-29 325000
1974-07-06 311000
1974-07-13 304000
1974-07-20 303000
1974-07-27 320000
1974-08-03 335000
1974-08-10 347000
1974-08-17 332000
1974-08-24 343000
1974-08-31 350000
1974-09-07 350000
1974-09-14 357000
1974-09-21 370000
1974-09-28 366000
1974-10-05 371000
1974-10-12 413000
1974-10-19 389000
1974-10-26 414000
1974-11-02 406000
1974-11-09 441000
1974-11-16 449000
1974-11-23 518000
1974-11-30 474000
1974-12-07 528000
1974-12-14 510000
1974-12-21 521000
1974-12-28 537000
1975-01-04 456000
1975-01-11 554000
1975-01-18 575000
1975-01-25 555000
1975-02-01 559000
1975-02-08 545000
1975-02-15 530000
1975-02-22 544000
1975-03-01 546000
1975-03-08 551000
1975-03-15 531000
1975-03-22 550000
1975-03-29 555000
1975-04-05 537000
1975-04-12 520000
1975-04-19 531000
1975-04-26 513000
1975-05-03 505000
1975-05-10 507000
1975-05-17 514000
1975-05-24 493000
1975-05-31 475000
1975-06-07 529000
1975-06-14 497000
1975-06-21 497000
1975-06-28 459000
1975-07-05 423000
1975-07-12 446000
1975-07-19 445000
1975-07-26 454000
1975-08-02 454000
1975-08-09 459000
1975-08-16 444000
1975-08-23 457000
1975-08-30 446000
1975-09-06 447000
1975-09-13 456000
1975-09-20 433000
1975-09-27 445000
1975-10-04 426000
1975-10-11 429000
1975-10-18 404000
1975-10-25 426000
1975-11-01 414000
1975-11-08 415000
1975-11-15 386000
1975-11-22 401000
1975-11-29 387000
1975-12-06 373000
1975-12-13 368000
1975-12-20 365000
1975-12-27 391000
1976-01-03 362000
1976-01-10 402000
1976-01-17 370000
1976-01-24 363000
1976-01-31 359000
1976-02-07 353000
1976-02-14 344000
1976-02-21 347000
1976-02-28 349000
1976-03-06 348000
1976-03-13 360000
1976-03-20 368000
1976-03-27 366000
1976-04-03 380000
1976-04-10 373000
1976-04-17 361000
1976-04-24 367000
1976-05-01 385000
1976-05-08 395000
1976-05-15 382000
1976-05-22 394000
1976-05-29 402000
1976-06-05 382000
1976-06-12 407000
1976-06-19 399000
1976-06-26 387000
1976-07-03 394000
1976-07-10 372000
1976-07-17 406000
1976-07-24 394000
1976-07-31 388000
1976-08-07 378000
1976-08-14 382000
1976-08-21 400000
1976-08-28 394000
1976-09-04 421000
1976-09-11 383000
1976-09-18 403000
1976-09-25 423000
1976-10-02 408000
1976-10-09 411000
1976-10-16 403000
1976-10-23 409000
1976-10-30 414000
1976-11-06 390000
1976-11-13 383000
1976-11-20 408000
1976-11-27 377000
1976-12-04 402000
1976-12-11 395000
1976-12-18 365000
1976-12-25 333000
1977-01-01 380000
1977-01-08 416000
1977-01-15 368000
1977-01-22 423000
1977-01-29 422000
1977-02-05 565000
1977-02-12 477000
1977-02-19 399000
1977-02-26 362000
1977-03-05 361000
1977-03-12 355000
1977-03-19 369000
1977-03-26 356000
1977-04-02 350000
1977-04-09 376000
1977-04-16 361000
1977-04-23 375000
1977-04-30 375000
1977-05-07 384000
1977-05-14 381000
1977-05-21 375000
1977-05-28 381000
1977-06-04 363000
1977-06-11 358000
1977-06-18 359000
1977-06-25 365000
1977-07-02 350000
1977-07-09 361000
1977-07-16 366000
1977-07-23 365000
1977-07-30 365000
1977-08-06 378000
1977-08-13 359000
1977-08-20 367000
1977-08-27 365000
1977-09-03 374000
1977-09-10 359000
1977-09-17 362000
1977-09-24 380000
1977-10-01 348000
1977-10-08 365000
1977-10-15 358000
1977-10-22 375000
1977-10-29 349000
1977-11-05 366000
1977-11-12 334000
1977-11-19 360000
1977-11-26 354000
1977-12-03 367000
1977-12-10 364000
1977-12-17 359000
1977-12-24 344000
1977-12-31 364000
1978-01-07 346000
1978-01-14 343000
1978-01-21 352000
1978-01-28 363000
1978-02-04 360000
1978-02-11 373000
1978-02-18 429000
1978-02-25 371000
1978-03-04 355000
1978-03-11 359000
1978-03-18 347000
1978-03-25 335000
1978-04-01 333000
1978-04-08 345000
1978-04-15 309000
1978-04-22 319000
1978-04-29 324000
1978-05-06 334000
1978-05-13 322000
1978-05-20 334000
1978-05-27 318000
1978-06-03 310000
1978-06-10 331000
1978-06-17 326000
1978-06-24 330000
1978-07-01 348000
1978-07-08 356000
1978-07-15 352000
1978-07-22 349000
1978-07-29 346000
1978-08-05 365000
1978-08-12 354000
1978-08-19 343000
1978-08-26 333000
1978-09-02 313000
1978-09-09 337000
1978-09-16 322000
1978-09-23 323000
1978-09-30 318000
1978-10-07 343000
1978-10-14 316000
1978-10-21 338000
1978-10-28 316000
1978-11-04 317000
1978-11-11 304000
1978-11-18 342000
1978-11-25 359000
1978-12-02 377000
1978-12-09 344000
1978-12-16 347000
1978-12-23 352000
1978-12-30 358000
1979-01-06 359000
1979-01-13 392000
1979-01-20 337000
1979-01-27 342000
1979-02-03 348000
1979-02-10 359000
1979-02-17 367000
1979-02-24 360000
1979-03-03 355000
1979-03-10 363000
1979-03-17 359000
1979-03-24 353000
1979-03-31 360000
1979-04-07 465000
1979-04-14 457000
1979-04-21 383000
1979-04-28 357000
1979-05-05 353000
1979-05-12 344000
1979-05-19 346000
1979-05-26 349000
1979-06-02 336000
1979-06-09 365000
1979-06-16 351000
1979-06-23 379000
1979-06-30 369000
1979-07-07 368000
1979-07-14 368000
1979-07-21 395000
1979-07-28 386000
1979-08-04 412000
1979-08-11 386000
1979-08-18 387000
1979-08-25 390000
1979-09-01 389000
1979-09-08 378000
1979-09-15 384000
1979-09-22 388000
1979-09-29 390000
1979-10-06 412000
1979-10-13 393000
1979-10-20 406000
1979-10-27 398000
1979-11-03 395000
1979-11-10 414000
1979-11-17 430000
1979-11-24 414000
1979-12-01 416000
1979-12-08 415000
1979-12-15 411000
1979-12-22 471000
1979-12-29 428000
1980-01-05 394000
1980-01-12 405000
1980-01-19 446000
1980-01-26 412000
1980-02-02 404000
1980-02-09 425000
1980-02-16 415000
1980-02-23 428000
1980-03-01 409000
1980-03-08 418000
1980-03-15 432000
1980-03-22 435000
1980-03-29 475000
1980-04-05 464000
1980-04-12 544000
1980-04-19 548000
1980-04-26 563000
1980-05-03 572000
1980-05-10 601000
1980-05-17 642000
1980-05-24 627000
1980-05-31 637000
1980-06-07 610000
1980-06-14 592000
1980-06-21 599000
1980-06-28 627000
1980-07-05 579000
1980-07-12 533000
1980-07-19 567000
1980-07-26 558000
1980-08-02 569000
1980-08-09 533000
1980-08-16 525000
1980-08-23 512000
1980-08-30 502000
1980-09-06 511000
1980-09-13 492000
1980-09-20 465000
1980-09-27 463000
1980-10-04 462000
1980-10-11 447000
1980-10-18 425000
1980-10-25 418000
1980-11-01 419000
1980-11-08 407000
1980-11-15 427000
1980-11-22 398000
1980-11-29 412000
1980-12-06 416000
1980-12-13 413000
1980-12-20 412000
1980-12-27 399000
1981-01-03 410000
1981-01-10 419000
1981-01-17 421000
1981-01-24 396000
1981-01-31 419000
1981-02-07 420000
1981-02-14 423000
1981-02-21 438000
1981-02-28 434000
1981-03-07 409000
1981-03-14 408000
1981-03-21 401000
1981-03-28 412000
1981-04-04 417000
1981-04-11 396000
1981-04-18 392000
1981-04-25 436000
1981-05-02 413000
1981-05-09 423000
1981-05-16 414000
1981-05-23 415000
1981-05-30 417000
1981-06-06 428000
1981-06-13 425000
1981-06-20 435000
1981-06-27 444000
1981-07-04 460000
1981-07-11 426000
1981-07-18 430000
1981-07-25 407000
1981-08-01 476000
1981-08-08 448000
1981-08-15 442000
1981-08-22 434000
1981-08-29 451000
1981-09-05 473000
1981-09-12 454000
1981-09-19 475000
1981-09-26 491000
1981-10-03 489000
1981-10-10 491000
1981-10-17 487000
1981-10-24 483000
1981-10-31 514000
1981-11-07 514000
1981-11-14 517000
1981-11-21 464000
1981-11-28 552000
1981-12-05 558000
1981-12-12 551000
1981-12-19 539000
1981-12-26 556000
1982-01-02 495000
1982-01-09 545000
1982-01-16 489000
1982-01-23 564000
1982-01-30 583000
1982-02-06 556000
1982-02-13 507000
1982-02-20 544000
1982-02-27 528000
1982-03-06 556000
1982-03-13 539000
1982-03-20 557000
1982-03-27 574000
1982-04-03 578000
1982-04-10 585000
1982-04-17 597000
1982-04-24 588000
1982-05-01 576000
1982-05-08 584000
1982-05-15 585000
1982-05-22 586000
1982-05-29 588000
1982-06-05 611000
1982-06-12 614000
1982-06-19 591000
1982-06-26 582000
1982-07-03 600000
1982-07-10 572000
1982-07-17 567000
1982-07-24 536000
1982-07-31 605000
1982-08-07 606000
1982-08-14 637000
1982-08-21 628000
1982-08-28 647000
1982-09-04 651000
1982-09-11 641000
1982-09-18 680000
1982-09-25 671000
1982-10-02 695000
1982-10-09 651000
1982-10-16 656000
1982-10-23 623000
1982-10-30 637000
1982-11-06 589000
1982-11-13 599000
1982-11-20 577000
1982-11-27 612000
1982-12-04 557000
1982-12-11 533000
1982-12-18 516000
1982-12-25 489000
1983-01-01 534000
1983-01-08 510000
1983-01-15 479000
1983-01-22 479000
1983-01-29 503000
1983-02-05 501000
1983-02-12 486000
1983-02-19 487000
1983-02-26 481000
1983-03-05 495000
1983-03-12 475000
1983-03-19 470000
1983-03-26 481000
1983-04-02 491000
1983-04-09 496000
1983-04-16 515000
1983-04-23 488000
1983-04-30 490000
1983-05-07 494000
1983-05-14 464000
1983-05-21 460000
1983-05-28 454000
1983-06-04 459000
1983-06-11 442000
1983-06-18 434000
1983-06-25 442000
1983-07-02 422000
1983-07-09 412000
1983-07-16 396000
1983-07-23 395000
1983-07-30 415000
1983-08-06 415000
1983-08-13 457000
1983-08-20 445000
1983-08-27 426000
1983-09-03 411000
1983-09-10 403000
1983-09-17 405000
1983-09-24 416000
1983-10-01 413000
1983-10-08 406000
1983-10-15 394000
1983-10-22 394000
1983-10-29 404000
1983-11-05 395000
1983-11-12 390000
1983-11-19 387000
1983-11-26 398000
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2018-09-08 211000
2018-09-15 213000
2018-09-22 212000
2018-09-29 217000
2018-10-06 213000
2018-10-13 213000
2018-10-20 219000
2018-10-27 217000
2018-11-03 217000
2018-11-10 218000
2018-11-17 222000
2018-11-24 232000
2018-12-01 232000
2018-12-08 203000
2018-12-15 216000
2018-12-22 219000
2018-12-29 228000
2019-01-05 220000
2019-01-12 216000
2019-01-19 209000
2019-01-26 236000
2019-02-02 230000
2019-02-09 228000
2019-02-16 218000
2019-02-23 224000
2019-03-02 220000
2019-03-09 224000
2019-03-16 219000
2019-03-23 215000
2019-03-30 211000
2019-04-06 203000
2019-04-13 203000
2019-04-20 226000
2019-04-27 230000
2019-05-04 225000
2019-05-11 217000
2019-05-18 213000
2019-05-25 218000
2019-06-01 220000
2019-06-08 220000
2019-06-15 219000
2019-06-22 224000
2019-06-29 222000
2019-07-06 211000
2019-07-13 217000
2019-07-20 211000
2019-07-27 216000
2019-08-03 214000
2019-08-10 218000
2019-08-17 215000
2019-08-24 215000
2019-08-31 219000
2019-09-07 208000
2019-09-14 211000
2019-09-21 215000
2019-09-28 218000
2019-10-05 212000
2019-10-12 218000
2019-10-19 213000
2019-10-26 217000
2019-11-02 212000
2019-11-09 222000
2019-11-16 223000
2019-11-23 211000
2019-11-30 206000
2019-12-07 237000
2019-12-14 229000
2019-12-21 218000
2019-12-28 220000
2020-01-04 212000
2020-01-11 207000
2020-01-18 220000
2020-01-25 212000
2020-02-01 201000
2020-02-08 204000
2020-02-15 215000
2020-02-22 220000
2020-02-29 217000
2020-03-07 211000
2020-03-14 281000
2020-03-21 3,394,000
2020-03-28 6,648,000
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Note: Shaded areas denote recessions.

Source: U.S. Employment and Training Administration, Initial Claims [ICSA], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/ICSA, April 2, 2020

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In the two weeks ending last Saturday, about 10 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance. For a sense of scale, the Great Recession reduced total number of U.S. jobs by 8.7 million through 2 years of losses, from 138.4 million in January 2008 to 129.7 million in February 2010. The share of adults employed is now almost certainly below its lowest level since the start of the Great Recession.

Based on Americans’ internet search activity through the first three days of this week, our model predicts that, next Thursday, DOL will report that another 4.7–5.7 million Americans filed new claims in the current week ending tomorrow.


The Great Recession and the current one unfolded very differently. During the Great Recession, job separations—the sum of quits, firings, and layoffs—actually slowed (Figure B: dashed line) but hiring slowed even more rapidly (Figure B: dotted line). In any time period, the difference between the number of separations and the number of hires equals the net change in the number of jobs. Over those two years of net losses, 55.9 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment.

Figure B

Total nonfarm hires and separations: Level in thousands, monthly, seasonally adjusted, January 2006–January 2020

observation_date Hires  Separations 
2006-01-01 5271 5113
2006-02-01 5474 5180
2006-03-01 5524 5196
2006-04-01 5215 5074
2006-05-01 5498 5417
2006-06-01 5455 5262
2006-07-01 5573 5366
2006-08-01 5373 5207
2006-09-01 5288 5090
2006-10-01 5375 5319
2006-11-01 5495 5324
2006-12-01 5214 5127
2007-01-01 5426 5314
2007-02-01 5160 5117
2007-03-01 5479 5196
2007-04-01 5353 5286
2007-05-01 5469 5292
2007-06-01 5267 5103
2007-07-01 5217 5253
2007-08-01 5358 5398
2007-09-01 5344 5191
2007-10-01 5398 5271
2007-11-01 5176 5093
2007-12-01 5119 5041
2008-01-01 5071 5194
2008-02-01 5077 5184
2008-03-01 4924 4910
2008-04-01 4948 5182
2008-05-01 4691 4840
2008-06-01 4893 5043
2008-07-01 4637 4868
2008-08-01 4682 5014
2008-09-01 4499 4901
2008-10-01 4548 4977
2008-11-01 4104 4787
2008-12-01 4348 4879
2009-01-01 4095 4925
2009-02-01 4061 4824
2009-03-01 3858 4693
2009-04-01 3888 4695
2009-05-01 3758 4184
2009-06-01 3639 4226
2009-07-01 3857 4256
2009-08-01 3810 3992
2009-09-01 3944 4123
2009-10-01 3838 4003
2009-11-01 4024 3983
2009-12-01 4004 4103
2010-01-01 3904 3989
2010-02-01 3864 3978
2010-03-01 4302 4072
2010-04-01 4159 3948
2010-05-01 4420 3911
2010-06-01 4111 4308
2010-07-01 4163 4299
2010-08-01 4046 4067
2010-09-01 4034 4047
2010-10-01 4173 3883
2010-11-01 4182 4041
2010-12-01 4299 4143
2011-01-01 4000 4045
2011-02-01 4231 4014
2011-03-01 4430 4109
2011-04-01 4296 3994
2011-05-01 4261 4179
2011-06-01 4366 4168
2011-07-01 4261 4180
2011-08-01 4298 4189
2011-09-01 4429 4213
2011-10-01 4370 4147
2011-11-01 4365 4237
2011-12-01 4356 4090
2012-01-01 4457 4195
2012-02-01 4560 4322
2012-03-01 4575 4257
2012-04-01 4389 4329
2012-05-01 4533 4430
2012-06-01 4440 4383
2012-07-01 4327 4178
2012-08-01 4450 4338
2012-09-01 4302 4100
2012-10-01 4389 4260
2012-11-01 4489 4303
2012-12-01 4452 4117
2013-01-01 4487 4381
2013-02-01 4571 4257
2013-03-01 4369 4215
2013-04-01 4572 4424
2013-05-01 4663 4433
2013-06-01 4440 4313
2013-07-01 4561 4459
2013-08-01 4730 4522
2013-09-01 4726 4521
2013-10-01 4518 4354
2013-11-01 4622 4332
2013-12-01 4614 4387
2014-01-01 4626 4464
2014-02-01 4696 4511
2014-03-01 4763 4498
2014-04-01 4880 4584
2014-05-01 4808 4569
2014-06-01 4925 4617
2014-07-01 5008 4786
2014-08-01 4810 4654
2014-09-01 5149 4861
2014-10-01 5111 4941
2014-11-01 4978 4642
2014-12-01 5192 4815
2015-01-01 5061 4911
2015-02-01 5127 4828
2015-03-01 5126 5064
2015-04-01 5196 4942
2015-05-01 5142 4826
2015-06-01 5125 4992
2015-07-01 5150 4887
2015-08-01 5163 5055
2015-09-01 5287 5114
2015-10-01 5338 5032
2015-11-01 5358 5052
2015-12-01 5540 5208
2016-01-01 5204 5144
2016-02-01 5559 5282
2016-03-01 5362 5140
2016-04-01 5277 5122
2016-05-01 5206 5137
2016-06-01 5277 5061
2016-07-01 5419 5114
2016-08-01 5301 5188
2016-09-01 5283 4988
2016-10-01 5234 5098
2016-11-01 5316 5114
2016-12-01 5380 5087
2017-01-01 5517 5338
2017-02-01 5366 5141
2017-03-01 5395 5254
2017-04-01 5265 5101
2017-05-01 5454 5280
2017-06-01 5642 5457
2017-07-01 5502 5351
2017-08-01 5528 5368
2017-09-01 5401 5334
2017-10-01 5635 5347
2017-11-01 5473 5221
2017-12-01 5426 5265
2018-01-01 5511 5346
2018-02-01 5669 5276
2018-03-01 5629 5475
2018-04-01 5587 5449
2018-05-01 5819 5513
2018-06-01 5783 5558
2018-07-01 5691 5579
2018-08-01 5792 5568
2018-09-01 5610 5517
2018-10-01 5855 5638
2018-11-01 5818 5692
2018-12-01 5762 5569
2019-01-01 5834 5590
2019-02-01 5703 5676
2019-03-01 5689 5553
2019-04-01 6000 5763
2019-05-01 5687 5547
2019-06-01 5760 5568
2019-07-01 5975 5769
2019-08-01 5839 5660
2019-09-01 5959 5739
2019-10-01 5757 5580
2019-11-01 5857 5657
2019-12-01 5927 5762
2020-01-01 5824 5614
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Note: Shared area denotes recession.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis FRED economic data

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Throughout the Great Recession, new hires counterbalanced a large share of the job losses in any month.

The current labor-market shock is happening differently. It’s not driven primarily by a hiring slowdown but by skyrocketing layoffs. Hiring appears to be slowing as well, along with posted openings, though this is more difficult to observe and slower to show up in any official sources. A simple approximation implies that there may have been as many as 2 million hires over the prior two weeks, implying a net loss of at least 8 million jobs.

These job losses are happening across every state. Table 1 describes the official reports of new claims over the two weeks ending March 28 for each state and for each week separately. Applying the national seasonal adjustment factors would raise these by about 14%. Many states’ UI administrators are struggling to keep pace with the huge surge in demand, which is leading to intake, processing, and reporting challenges. And not everyone who loses work has tried to file for unemployment. So the true scale of labor income loss is undoubtedly larger than even these huge numbers show.

Table 1

Number of new claims over the two weeks ending March 28 for each state and for each week separately

State or territory Week ending March 21 Week ending March 28 Two-week total
Alabama            10,892                     80,186 91,078
Alaska              7,847                     14,523 22,370
Arizona            29,348                     89,064 118,412
Arkansas              9,275                     26,944 36,219
California          186,333                   878,727 1,065,060
Colorado            19,774                     60,784 80,558
Connecticut            25,100                     33,182   58,282
Delaware            10,776                     18,987 29,763
District of Columbia            14,462                     14,868 29,330
Florida            74,313                   227,000 301,313
Georgia            12,140                   132,386 144,526
Hawaii              8,815                     48,861 57,676
Idaho            13,586                     32,240 45,826
Illinois          114,114                   178,133 292,247
Indiana            59,755                   146,243 205,998
Iowa            40,952                     58,453 99,405
Kansas            23,563                     54,739 78,302
Kentucky            49,023                   112,726 161,749
Louisiana            72,438                     97,830 170,268
Maine            21,459                     23,535 44,994
Maryland            42,981                     83,536 126,517
Massachusetts          148,452                   181,062 329,514
Michigan          128,006                   311,086 439,092
Minnesota          115,773                   109,896 225,669
Mississippi              5,519                     30,946 36,465
Missouri            42,246                     96,734 138,980
Montana            15,349                     19,540 34,889
Nebraska            15,700                     24,572 40,272
Nevada            92,298                     71,419 163,717
New Hampshire            29,379                     27,454 56,833
New Jersey          115,815                   205,515 321,330
New Mexico            18,105                     28,182 46,287
New York            79,999                   366,403 446,402
North Carolina            94,083                   170,881 264,964
North Dakota              5,662                     12,591 18,253
Ohio          196,309                   272,129 468,438
Oklahoma            21,926                     44,970 66,896
Oregon            30,054                     42,502 72,556
Pennsylvania          377,451                   405,880 783,331
Puerto Rico            20,148                     45,218 65,366
Rhode Island            35,847                     28,067 63,914
South Carolina            31,826                     64,856 96,682
South Dakota              1,761                       6,645 8,406
Tennessee            38,077                     94,492 132,569
Texas          155,426                   275,597 431,023
Utah            19,690                     28,560 48,250
Vermont              3,784                     14,443 18,227
Virgin Islands                 123                          160 283
Virginia            46,277                   114,104 160,381
Washington          129,909                   187,501 317,410
West Virginia              3,536                     14,166 17,702
Wisconsin            51,031                   110,724 161,755
Wyoming              3,653                       4,675 8,328
U.S. Total (NSA*)       2,920,160                 5,823,917 8,744,077
U.S. Total (SA**) 3,307,000 6,648,000 9,955,000

 

Notes: *NSA = not seasonally adjusted; **SA = seasonally adjusted.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor News Release: Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims

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The surge in new claims was not a surprise, but the magnitude is enormous. Americans started searching for the phrase “file for unemployment” at unprecedented rates a couple of weeks ago, as the broad quarantines started and layoffs followed. Search activity rose again last week, above the record high levels of the prior week, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Search intensity for ‘file for unemployment’ by state during the weeks ending March 21, 2020, and March 28, 2020: State position above the dotted line indicates increased intensity

State Week of March 15 Week of March 22
AK 49.8 64.4
AL 30.6 73.8
AR 41.3 65.6
AZ 14.5 25.0
CA 24.6 30.4
CO 35.2 41.6
CT 26.4 31.0
DC 32.8 53.3
DE 58.1 90.3
FL 31.6 84.2
GA 23.8 50.5
HI 86.3 95.0
IA 47.6 46.6
ID 23.1 47.3
IL 48.2 73.0
IN 76.9 125.9
KS 37.8 85.8
KY 55.8 70.9
LA 31.6 46.1
MA 21.8 24.4
MD 27.1 49.7
ME 85.0 134.3
MI 78.4 180.4
MN 12.0 14.2
MO 27.1 49.0
MS 31.3 96.8
MT 77.9 104.8
NC 40.2 69.1
ND 44.4 40.1
NE 26.1 36.2
NH 117.6 106.8
NJ 21.7 35.7
NM 48.2 37.8
NV 111.8 124.0
NY 27.1 42.4
OH 67.0 92.5
OK 52.6 101.1
OR 67.9 91.4
PA 71.8 88.6
RI 65.0 72.9
SC 34.6 57.1
SD 24.9 103.7
TN 27.9 66.0
TX 17.7 39.1
USA 60.5 100.4
UT 9.2 20.2
VA 22.2 50.3
VT 87.9 83.9
WA 17.2 25.6
WI 29.0 48.3
WV 42.6 78.6
WY 60.9 58.8
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Note: Scatter plot of states’ Google Trends search intensity in “file for unemployment” for the two weeks ending March 21, 2020, and March 28, 2020.

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Figure D shows the intensity of search activity by state in the last week, on the vertical axis, against intensity in the prior week, on the horizontal axis. It shows that search intensity increased in many states.

Figure D

Daily Google search intensity for ‘file for unemployment’: From February 22, 2020, to March 28, 2020, highlighting national trend and select states

date U.S.A. California Florida Illinois Michigan New York Ohio Philadelphia
2020-02-22 1.282051 1 0 0 4.651163 0 0 0
2020-02-23 1.282051 1 1.627451 2.634921 4.651163 2.083333 3.222222 3.986301
2020-02-24 2.564103 1 0 3.952381 4.651163 2.083333 4.833333 3.986301
2020-02-25 2.564103 2 1.627451 2.634921 0 2.083333 3.222222 5.315068
2020-02-26 2.564103 1 3.254902 3.952381 4.651163 1.041667 3.222222 5.315068
2020-02-27 2.564103 1 1.627451 2.634921 6.976744 0 3.222222 5.315068
2020-02-28 2.564103 1 1.627451 3.952381 4.651163 3.125 3.222222 2.657534
2020-02-29 1.282051 1 1.627451 0 4.651163 0 3.222222 0
2020-03-01 1.282051 1 1.627451 5.269841 0 2.083333 4.833333 2.657534
2020-03-02 2.564103 1 1.627451 6.587302 13.95349 1.041667 3.222222 9.30137
2020-03-03 2.564103 1 1.627451 3.952381 4.651163 2.083333 8.055556 7.972603
2020-03-04 2.564103 1 1.627451 2.634921 4.651163 1.041667 3.222222 2.657534
2020-03-05 2.564103 1 1.627451 3.952381 0 1.041667 3.222222 2.657534
2020-03-06 2.564103 1 1.627451 2.634921 0 1.041667 3.222222 2.657534
2020-03-07 1.282051 0 1.627451 2.634921 4.651163 2.083333 3.222222 6.643836
2020-03-08 1.282051 0 3.254902 2.634921 0 1.041667 6.444444 0
2020-03-09 2.564103 2 1.627451 3.952381 4.651163 1.041667 4.833333 0
2020-03-10 2.564103 1 1.627451 2.634921 4.651163 1.041667 4.833333 2.657534
2020-03-11 2.564103 2 1.627451 0 6.976744 1.041667 0 2.657534
2020-03-12 3.846154 2 3.254902 7.904762 6.976744 3.125 3.222222 7.972603
2020-03-13 5.128205 4 4.882353 5.269841 11.62791 2.083333 11.27778 7.972603
2020-03-14 6.410256 5 3.254902 3.952381 4.651163 2.083333 0 11.9589
2020-03-15 8.974359 5 4.882353 14.49206 11.62791 3.125 32.22222 13.28767
2020-03-16 37.17949 15 13.01961 34.25397 83.72093 26.04167 90.22222 78.39726
2020-03-17 61.53846 32 19.52941 48.74603 97.67442 28.125 69.27778 77.06849
2020-03-18 74.35897 32 29.29412 44.79365 104.6512 27.08333 82.16667 69.09589
2020-03-19 73.07692 28 39.05882 71.14286 72.09302 38.54167 87 77.06849
2020-03-20 87.17949 33 61.84314 67.19048 109.3023 45.83333 61.22222 128.8904
2020-03-21 58.97436 27 53.70588 56.65079 69.76744 20.83333 46.72222 58.46575
2020-03-22 51.28205 19 52.07843 40.84127 69.76744 27.08333 85.38889 71.75342
2020-03-23 96.15385 27 73.23529 72.46032 225.5814 46.875 111.1667 93.0137
2020-03-24 80.76923 25 60.21569 68.50794 230.2326 35.41667 70.88889 74.41096
2020-03-25 89.74359 26 61.84314 79.04762 232.5581 47.91667 87 102.3151
2020-03-26 128.2051 47 135.0784 109.3492 186.0465 52.08333 140.1667 127.5616
2020-03-27 110.2564 39 117.1765 90.90476 172.093 43.75 101.5 65.10959
2020-03-28 94.87179 30 89.5098 50.06349 146.5116 43.75 51.55556 86.36986
2020-03-29 70.51282
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Note: Index of the relative daily search interest in “file for unemployment” across the nation and select states from Google Trends.

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The federal government is the only entity in the country with the borrowing capacity to help families losing massive shares of their income through no fault of their own, as necessary to preserve life and ensure a speedy recovery. Given our failure to stand up wide-scale testing, we cannot distinguish who can work from who requires care and our only option for saving lives is indiscriminate social distancing. We had to put the U.S. economy into a medically induced coma. Without life support systems pumping resources where they need to go, vital parts of our economy will start to fail, diminishing our ability to quickly and smoothly revive.

We must address the public health challenges with every productive resource available, while also preventing families’ finances from deteriorating into desperation. It’s not about stimulus. It’s about survival.