The Labor Market Catastrophe : The Indicator from Planet Money Layoffs and furloughs due to the coronavirus clampdown have pushed 3.3 million Americans to apply for unemployment benefits, the largest weekly increase in U.S. history.
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The Labor Market Catastrophe

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The Labor Market Catastrophe

The Labor Market Catastrophe

The Labor Market Catastrophe

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/822164664/848438975" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images
The US Department of Labor Building on March 26, 2020, in Washington, DC.
ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

We knew it was going to be a big number, but after years of falling jobless claims, a 3.3 million jump in applications for unemployment benefits is mind-boggling. We spoke with Martha Gimbel, manager of economic research at Schmidt Futures, about what the number really means.

And there's really no good news in this number. We don't know how much the number of unemployment claims might rise in the coming weeks, but it's probably not going to get any smaller. Worse still, we don't know how accurate this week's number is. As Martha tells us, it probably undercounts the real number of people who've been laid off or furloughed due to coronavirus. Many will not have made an unemployment claim before, so they won't know how to do it. Others may be holding out in the hope of getting another job, and others may not even be aware that they qualify.

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