US weekly jobless claims soar to over 3.2 million

The U.S. Department of Labor reported a historic jump in the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits this past week, perhaps the most glaring figure to illustrate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. 

According to the data published by the DOL, seasonally adjusted weekly jobless claims from the week of March 21st spiked to 3.28 million. 

That print is more than 370% higher than the previous weekly high set of 695,000 set during 1982, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The 1981-1982 recession saw close to 11 percent unemployment at its height.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley had predicted that jobless claims numbers would land between 2 to 4 million, an increase that led to its economists to adjust their original forecast on a recessionary outcome. 

"Looking out a month or so, our economists predict an unemployment rate north of 10%, which would exceed the rate experienced during the Great Recession," a group of analysts at the bank wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.

The bank said the pace at which coronavirus-tied social-distancing and wide-spread business closure has impacted the economy explains recent stock market performance.

"Markets always move ahead of the data," the bank's analysts noted. Still, the possibility for a quick V-shaped recovery offers one silver lining. 

"The question at this point is, will the recovery be just as fast," they wrote. "We think there is a strong argument for, rather than against, a fast recovery at least over the next 6 months."


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Frank Chaparro covers the intersection of financial markets and cryptocurrency as Editor-at-Large. Since joining the publication in 2018 as its first reporter, he has played a key role in building The Block into a leader in financial journalism and research. He leads special projects, including The Block's flagship podcast, The Scoop. Prior to The Block, he held roles at Business Insider, NPR, and Nasdaq. For inquiries or tips, email [email protected]

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