Unemployment Claims: 1.5 Million New State Filings in a Week

Unemployment Claims: 1.5 Million New State Filings in a Week

Businesses are reopening after coronavirus shutdowns, governments are easing restrictions, and workers are gradually returning to their jobs. But the layoffs keep coming.Another 1.5 million people applied for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, while 760,000 more filed new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal emergency program that extends benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors and others who don’t qualify for standard benefits.It was the 13th straight week that filings topped one million. Until the present crisis, the most new claims in a single week had been 695,000, in 1982.“It’s still more than twice the worst week of the Great Recession,” said Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank. “It’s a sustained hemorrhaging of jobs unlike anything we’ve seen before.”The pace of layoffs has slowed since early April, after unemployment filings topped 6.5 million for two straight weeks. And the total number of people receiving benefits has been edging down as businesses reopen and recall furloughed workers. About 20.5 million people were on state unemployment rolls in early June, down from a peak of nearly 25 million in early May, although economists caution that not all of that drop necessarily reflects people returning to work.But even as some companies rehire, others are shedding workers, often by the hundreds or thousands. Hilton Worldwide, the hotel operator, said on Tuesday that it was eliminating 2,100 corporate jobs globally and would extend previously announced furloughs and cuts in wages and hours for 90 days. AT&T disclosed plans to eliminate 3,400 technician and clerical jobs nationwide and to permanently close more than 250 stores, according to one of its unions. The gym chain 24 Hour Fitness said Monday that it was filing for bankruptcy protection and would permanently close more than 100 locations; in posts on social media, many workers said they had learned they were laid off on conference calls.Economists said the current layoffs, though smaller than the wave in March and early April, were in some ways more worrying because they suggested that the crisis was reaching deeper into the economy even as lockdowns eased.“What you’re seeing right now is economic scarring starting to happen,” said Martha Gimbel, an economist and a labor market expert at Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative. “Layoffs that happened at the beginning of this likely were intended as temporary. But if you’re laying off people now, that’s probably a long-term business decision.”Not all of the unemployment claims reported on Thursday necessarily reflect new layoffs. Some states are working through backlogs of claims filed earlier in the crisis; in other cases, people filing under multiple programs may be double-counted.But economists say there is little doubt that layoffs remain elevated three months into the crisis. And they warn that job losses could worsen if government support that has helped prop up the economy is allowed to lapse too soon.Deanna Mayo Lewis, who lives in Maine, lost her job as a customer relations specialist for a travel company in New Hampshire at the end of March. After a month out of work, she was hired back in early May when her company received a loan under the federal Paycheck Protection Program.Now that loan is running out. Ms. Lewis, 50, and four of her colleagues expect to be laid off again next week.“I’m hoping that once the travel industry comes back, they can rebuild and hire us back, but I don’t see that happening for a long time,” Ms. Lewis said. She is updating her résumé and preparing to hunt for jobs, but she isn’t optimistic.“It’s not looking so great out there,” she said.Even for businesses that can reopen, the landscape looks very different from what it was a few months ago. Restaurants, hair salons, retail outlets and other in-person businesses are serving fewer people, either because of occupancy restrictions intended to protect patrons’ health or because customers remain cautious about crowded areas. And virtually all businesses are expecting reduced demand as a result of the weaker economy.“A lot of businesses are at an extremely reduced capacity,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at the investment bank Stifel. “A lot of them are operating under the assumption that they may be at this limited level of activity for some time. There’s the idea that all of these jobs are going to return, but that’s not necessarily true.”Then there is the risk that the virus could force another round of shutdowns and accompanying job losses. Coronavirus cases are increasing in 20 states as restrictions ease and people resume normal activities.In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown recently put reopening efforts on hold after cases began to rise again there. And even without new restrictions, employers in the state have continued to announce layoffs this month, including a metalworking company that expects to make 717 permanent job cuts.

Updated June 16, 2020

I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

What is pandemic paid leave?
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?
Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?
States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

“If we end up seeing a lot more community spread of Covid-19, I would anticipate that on their own, more businesses would shut back down,” said David Gerstenfeld, acting director of Oregon’s Employment Department, “and there might be more aggressive measures taken to stop the spread from getting out of control, which could lead to a spike in people getting laid off and seeking benefits.”Hugh Nixon, 52, understands the caution. But he also fears for his ability to work.After being laid off in early March as a welder in Portland, Ore., he filed for unemployment benefits. He heard nothing until this month, when after daily calls and more than a dozen unanswered emails, he learned that his application had been denied.He is appealing the decision. His wife, a manager who had to lay off many colleagues, is supporting him and their young daughter. Without health insurance, he cannot have the knee replacement surgery he had scheduled before the pandemic.Mr. Nixon, who peppers his conversation with exclamations of “gee willikers” and worries that employers will prefer younger workers over him, is now expanding his vegetable garden.“We’re setting up for the winter, because we know it’s going to be bad,” he said. “If I was a company, I wouldn’t be hiring right now, because you don’t want to bring somebody in and two weeks later have to let them go when everything shuts down again.”


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Debbie
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