For the 14th week in a row, more than 1 million people filed for unemployment benefits as fallout from the pandemic continues to hurt workers across the nation. The last three weeks have each seen the number of newly unemployed Americans hover around the 1.5 million mark, an ominous sign that economic recovery could still be a long time coming.
Although some people have returned to work as states reopen, the rising number of coronavirus cases threatens to once again halt business operations on a wide scale. Even without this potential setback, however, many jobs that existed in a pre-pandemic world will not likely return. “It is just deeply disturbing,” said Heidi Shierholz, former chief economist at the Department of Labor. “I do think that people are getting hired back, but we are continuing to see an absolute hemorrhaging of jobs. Just record levels of people.”
All told, more than 47 million people have applied for unemployment benefits since March. Demand in some states has been so overwhelming that people must often wait in line for hours at government offices to receive assistance. In fact, one official in Oklahoma told unemployment seekers that they would have to line up as early as 2 a.m. in order to guarantee that they would be seen that day. As a result, some people who desperately need relief are unable to receive it. A graphic designer in Kansas City said he tried to apply for unemployment between 20 to 30 times in April before giving up to focus on finding jobs. After sending out 250 applications, he received his first callback this week.
- Why have some Americans been unable to obtain unemployment benefits?
- Do you think the federal government and states should provide more relief to struggling workers? Why or why not?