U.S. Jobless Claims Are Poised for Historic Surge

As efforts to contain the coronavirus intensify, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is skyrocketing.

In Connecticut, about 30,000 claims have been filed since Friday, about 10 times the average weekly total,according to the Hartford Courant. Ohio received more than 48,000 applications over the past two days, compared to just under 2,000 for the same period the week before, WBNS, a Columbus television station,reported Tuesday.

New York saw an “unprecedented” increase in phone calls and web traffic for unemployment insurance claims and advertised on Twitter more than 50 job positions for immediate hire in the last 24 hours to help process the huge inflow of claims.

These represent a slice of the hundreds of thousands of Americans — potentially millions — who will be put out of work by the coronavirus, which has led to canceled travel plans, conferences and large events. It’s forced restaurants and bars to close, and of those that remain open, slowed business to a crawl. As more people stay home, a swath of businesses — from coffee shops to dentist offices — are also laying off workers.

If this handful of states is even somewhat representative of what is happening broadly across the nation, there could be a historic surge in filings for unemployment benefits in the federal government’s report on March 26. The report due Thursday — which reflects claims through last Saturday — may only reflect a fraction of virus-related claims so far.

About a dozen states, including New York, California and Illinois, have turned to more drastic measures in an attempt to contain the virus, including closing restaurants and bars to dine-in customers. One estimatesays the U.S. restaurant industry is poised to lose 7.4 million jobs.

Marriott International Inc. has started furloughs that could hit tens of thousands, and the American Hotel & Lodging Associationprojects the industry will be forced to shed 1 million jobs in the next few weeks.

The surge in jobless claims could put greater strain on state governments that will already be facing a sharp decline in tax revenue.

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