San José, CA – New claims for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits doubled from record numbers just a week earlier. On Thursday, April 2, the Department of Labor reported that more than 6.6 million people applied for state unemployment insurance benefits for the week ending March 28. This means that almost 10 MILLION people lost their jobs and applied for UI benefits in just the last two weeks of March. This economic crisis has caused more job losses in two weeks than the entire 2007 to 2009 recession, where 8 million jobs were lost.
Like the week before, Wall Street rallied, with the broad S&P 500 Index up 2.28% and the headline Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 450 points. This is just another example of how the interests of the wealthiest 1% of Wall Street, who own half of all stocks, and the working people of America have opposing interests.
A week ago, Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury, dismissed the record unemployment insurance benefit applications as “not relevant,” because of the bipartisan pandemic disaster bill that had just been signed into law. The $1200 payments to individuals are supposed to start April 9 for those who have direct deposit for their tax returns. But it will take up to 20 weeks, or almost five months, for checks to be mailed to people who the IRS doesn’t have bank records for.
The layoffs are spreading. What began with smaller businesses that had to shut down is spreading to more and more medium and large businesses. A number of major retailers such as Macy’s, Gap and Kohls, who had already shut their stores, announced that they were furloughing most of their workers. Job losses in manufacturing and construction are picking up as sales dry up and public health restrictions expand. Even white collar and technology jobs that can be done at home are being lost as companies cut workers in the face of falling sales. Many of these layoffs won’t show up until next week’s report.
With surveys showing that 40% of households could not make the rent or mortgage if they lost their jobs, millions will not be able to pay this month, and even more next month. While a number of state and local governments have banned evictions temporarily, tenants will still owe their back rent. What began as a public health crisis with the lack of preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic is turning into an economic crisis which the United States, with its weak safety net, is also not prepared for.
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