The impact of the economic shutdown in the U.S. caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was revealed Thursday when the latest tally of Americans applying for unemployment benefits spiked to 3.28 million — the largest number ever recorded in history.
That weekly number quadruples the prior record and dwarfs, by far, the largest halt to employment seen during the 2008 financial crisis. Single weekly jobless claim numbers never topped 700,000, until now.
But digging further into the disastrous 3.28 million headline number reveals a slowdown that hit some states harder than others, and reveals why President Trump might be so eager to see businesses reopen in some communities sooner rather than later.
Key swing states, which Trump won by the slimmest margins in 2016, showed some of the largest percentage increases in unemployment applications for the week ending March 21. Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania each reported a jump in weekly unemployment applications that surpassed 2,300%.
On a percentage basis, New Hampshire suffered the worst spike in unemployment claims, up more than 3,300% from just 641 claims the week prior to top 21,000 weekly claims at last clip. Conversely, Utah, which hasn’t been hit with as many reported cases of coronavirus as other states, only saw jobless claims rise by less than 1%.
The Department of Labor release noted the coronavirus crisis and shutdown was a large cause of job losses in a number of states, including Nevada and New Jersey. Earlier this month, casinos in Las Vegas announced they would be shutting down to prevent the spread of new cases, causing some companies to let a swath of workers go.
The unprecedented national spike in more Americans applying for unemployment benefits, however, reveals the magnitude of the economic shutdown at hand. It also explains why the Senate moved with record speed to approve a $2 trillion stimulus bill, and why Obama’s former top economist Jason Furman said it still might not be enough.
But more specifically for the fast approaching election in November, it presents another wrinkle should the unemployment rate extend higher for the foreseeable future.
“I do think the impact of Covid-19 and the economic impacts are probably going to change everyone’s playbook a bit,” said Mike Ryan, UBS Global Wealth Management Americas chief investment officer, highlighting the fact it could embolden the Trump administration to seek memorializing its corporate and personal tax cuts.
For the most part, however, polling has revealed approving or disapproving of Trump’s handling of the the coronavirus crisis has thus far remained a partisan exercise. According to a Monday Monmouth University poll, about 90% of Republican voters say he’s doing a good job, compared with just 20% of Democrats. The numbers overall reveal about a 50% approval rating of his job handling the outbreak so far amongst all voters.
Whether that number changes as more Americans lose their job as a result of more businesses shutting down as coronavirus cases spread remains to be seen. For now, it’s clear that the virus is hurting some states more than others.