Unemployment Claims Continue To Pile Up, Overwhelming State Systems

(PoliticalLookout.Com)- With each passing week, the numbers keep getting worse.
Yet another 6.6 million people in the United States filed for unemployment benefits last week. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 16.8 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in just the last three weeks. That number accounts for roughly 10% of the labor force in the entire country.
The numbers continue to rise at an astronomical pace as more and more companies are forced to lay off workers or furlough them due to the dramatic effects the coronavirus is having on their business. Almost every state in the nation has some sort of stay-at-home order in place, which has put an almost immediate stop on business in many industries. In those industries that are still able to operate, revenues have dipped quite substantially.
The concern, of course, is how fast this is all happening. During the Great Recession about 10 years ago, it took roughly two years for 8.6 million Americans to lost their jobs. In this recent crisis, the country almost eclipsed that mark in one week, and has almost doubled that number in three weeks.
People who have lost their job, been furloughed or lost a significant amount of income are waiting and hoping that not only will they be approved for unemployment benefits in their state, but that those benefits will be distributed by overworked labor departments that are trying to handle the significant influx in claims.
Many states have been inundated and overwhelmed with the increase in jobless claims, and part of the issue is that their online systems run on programming language called COBOL that is decades old. In New Jersey, for example, Governor Phil Murphy has had to ask volunteers who know how to code COBOL to help maintain the state’s system.
In Florida, people have created lines surrounding unemployment centers to file paper applications since they haven’t been able to do so online or over the phone.
For those who do get approved for unemployment benefits, the good news is that additional help from the federal government is on its way. As part of the more than $2 trillion economic relief package passed last month, the federal government will be providing all who qualify an extra $600 per week on top of whatever they get from their state unemployment benefits. This extra money will last for four months, and some workers will start receiving that money soon.
As far as how bad the unemployment situation could get, many economists are predicting that job losses will continue to pile up in the next few months, which could soar the unemployment rate into the double digit. Economists at Bank of America, for example, are projecting a cut of 16 million to 20 million jobs by June, which would result in a 15.6% unemployment rate.
And those same economists say that the labor market may not recover to the same condition it was in before the coronavirus pandemic for at least a few years.