Virus Outbreak Unemployment

In this Tuesday, March 24, 2020, photo, Keisha Henry poses for a portrait inside her lounge and catering business in New Orleans. Henry said she lost about $10,000 in revenue last week after three big functions she was slated to cater ended up canceling. Meanwhile, she still has expenses related to launching a bar and lounge six months ago. Henry said she regrettably had to lay off several employees.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Barely a week ago, David McGraw was cooking daily for hundreds of fine diners at one of New Orleans’ illustrious restaurants.

Today, he’s cooking for himself, at home — laid off along with hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. in a massive economic upheaval spurred by efforts to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

U.S. Department of Labor figures to be released Thursday are expected to shatter the old record for the greatest number of new unemployment claims filed in a single week. There are more suddenly jobless Americans than during the Great Recession — and more than in the aftermath of major natural disasters such as hurricanes, fires and floods.

Restaurants, hotels, airlines, automakers and entertainment venues all have been hit hard as cities, states and entire countries have ordered the closure of non-essential businesses and directed residents to remain at home.

The goal is to prevent the spread of the new Coronavirus. For most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Virus precautions have affected the worldwide economy. Companies in Europe are laying off workers at the fastest pace since the global financial crisis in 2009, according to surveys of business managers.

Official labor statistics for Europe are not yet out, but companies have been announcing tens of thousands of job cuts, both permanent and temporary. The rise in joblessness may not be as sharp as in the U.S., however, because it is harder to fire workers in Europe, where many governments are supporting companies financially to keep workers on partially paid leave.

Some economists project that the U.S. could see around 3 million new unemployment insurance claims when figures are released for the week of March 15-21. That would be around 12 times as many as the previous week.

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