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A new economic data record was set when it was reported 3.2 million Americans applied for unemployment support in the week ending March 21, which was well above the 1.7 million that markets were expecting, a number that amounts to more than 2% of the employed population.
The previous record for weekly jobless claims was set back in 1982 when 695K people applied for state support.
"There were suggestions that state websites and phone systems were struggling to cope with the volume of applicants, implying that today's figure could actually understate the number of people losing their jobs and suggesting that we will see further very high claims numbers in the weeks to come," says Andrew Grantham at CIBC Capital.
The foreign exchange market impact of the numbers has been notable, with Dollar falling in response to the huge slump in employment, as per our pre-release article published earlier today.
The Pound-to-Dollar exchange rate has shot up by a percent to quote at 1.1989 at the time of writing while the Euro-to-Dollar exchange rate is up 0.75% at 1.0974.
"Initial claims will remain highly elevated in the near-term as further areas of the US economy face shutdowns, more companies lay off staff and more claims are processed, although the fiscal support package announced earlier this week should hopefully help soften the blow," says Grantham.
"Even in the knowledge that tens of thousand of businesses shuttered in response to Covid-19 containment measures, the 3.3 million spike in initial claims is still shocking. Soberingly, given jammed phone lines and crashed government websites this figure understates the economic cost of the crisis so far," says James Knightley, Chief International Economist at ING.
The rise in unemployment comes as U.S. states initiate lockdowns in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the data, Pennsylvania reported the highest number of claims at 378.9K, with Ohio reporting 187K, Illinois 114.7K, California 186.8K and New York 80.3K.
"The longer the crisis lasts the more likely that even good quality businesses will fail and unemployment will climb higher – hence the importance of the agreement on the fiscal package that can provide support for key industries and small businesses," says Knightley.
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