CHICAGO (CBS) — The number of people filing unemployment claims surged more than 1000% last week, even before Gov. JB Pritzker ordered people to “stay at home” and mandated all non-essential businesses close through April 7.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 114,663 unemployment claims in Illinois for the week that ended March 21, up more than 10 times for the week prior, when there were 10,870 jobless claims in the state.
Illinois unemployment claims began to rise dramatically after the governor ordered all bars and restaurants to shut down dine-in service starting March 16. From March 16 through March 18, Illinois received more than 64,000 claims for unemployment benefits. That number for March 17 and 18 was 41,000. In the same two days in 2019, the state reported 4,445 claims.
Just days later, Pritzker ordered everyone in Illinois to stay home through April 7, except to go out for groceries, medical supplies, doctor’s visits, or limited exercise, as long as they stayed six feet away from others and avoided groups larger than 10. The governor also ordered all non-essential businesses to close.
The governor said jobless claims are continuing to surge this week. On Thursday alone, as of 2 p.m., more than 17,000 people in Illinois had filed unemployment claims, a single-day record.
Many people seeking to file their claims online have faced frustrating delays and error messages, due to the massive influx, and Pritzker said state officials are still working to make sure people can file claims in a timely manner.
“We’re going to get this right, and we’re going to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to file for unemployment claims, and we have sped up the process for people to actually receive those claims as well,” Pritzker said.
Overall jobless claims in the U.S. skyrocketed to a record 3.3 million last week, a nearly fivefold increase over the previous weekly record back in 1982.
By way of comparison, in the worst single week after the financial crash of 2008, jobless claims stood at 665,000.
“This represents the single worst one-day piece of labor market news in America’s history,” Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said in an email.
The number of Americans seeking jobless aid “starkly illustrates the extent of the economic devastation that the coronavirus has unleashed,” Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics said in a note to investors. For perspective, the unemployment claims reported Thursday wipe out all the job gains for 2019 and half of 2018.
And as staggering as the figures are, they are likely to rise in the coming weeks, Ashworth noted. The deluge in claims has, preventing many recently laid-off workers from applying for financial assistance.
Ashworth added that he expects the nation’s unemployment rate, which was at a 50-year, to top 10% as soon as next month.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dismissed the jobless claim figures on Thursday, saying they were “not relevant” because U.S. lawmakers were on the cusp of passing a significant economic stimulus bill. The would give unemployed workers their full pay for four months, expand benefits to independent contractors (who are typically exempt) and send direct payments of up to $1,200 to every adult. The package also includes hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to businesses, and aid for hospitals and state and local governments.