Unemployment claims surge by 6.6 million as coronavirus continues to rout U.S. workforce

America’s stunning unemployment surge during the coronavirus, visualized

Economists say the percentage of people out of work has soared since then.

“It’s fair to say we’re now into the double digits,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

How long this all could last remains an open question. In an interview with Savannah Guthrie on the “TODAY” show Wednesday, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, said officials were evaluating whether to extend their recommendation that people continue social distancing beyond the current guideline of April 30.

Cronk said: “I think we’ve got a ways to go, or several weeks of this, as states catch up and as those claims continue to come in.”

Zandi said that while the first wave of job losses hit the hardest in consumer-facing sectors such as leisure, hospitality and retail, the continued weekly losses in the millions indicated that the pain was spreading across the economy.

“Now it’s broadening out — manufacturing, construction, of course the energy sector,” he said, along with pockets of health care, wholesale, professional and personal services.

Zandi predicted that the unemployment rate will climb as high as 15 percent later this spring, a remarkable free fall for a job market at half-century lows.

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Cronk said: “People are so fixated on the labor market and the impairment of the labor market because it does drive what we expect for GDP contraction.”

Cronk estimated that second-quarter gross domestic product will contract by 22 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis, adding that he anticipates the beginning signs of a recovery by the third quarter. “It still looks like minus-3 percent for the whole year, but it’s going to be a wild ride,” he said.

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