US labor market reels as initial jobless claims soar far beyond previous record

  • 3.283 million workers file for unemployment insurance.
  • Layoffs may increase as shutdowns spread across the economy.
  • Congress to pass $2.2 trillion stimulus and support package.
  • Negative US GDP expected in the second quarter.

The decade long job boom came crashing to a halt this week when a record 3.283 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance as the Coronavirus pandemic shuttered large swaths of the US economy.

Many of the job losses were ordained by state and local government ordered closings of nonessential business and others by voluntary elimination of travel and other public activity.

Initial Jobless Claims


Job losses and initial jobless claims

The travel hospitality and leisure sectors alone employ 15.8 million people many who have been fired as the cash flow from operations has vanished.  Restaurants are another hard hit area with a potential for 5-7 million job losses according to industry representatives.

Prior to last week the record for claims was 695,000 in October 1982 followed by 665,000 in March 2009, both of which came as the US economy was mired in deep recessions as calculated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Heading into this crisis the US labor market had been in good shape having created an average 177,750 jobs per month last year with unemployment and initial claims near five decade lows and hourly earnings at the best level in a decade.

Economic impact

The US economy was not in recession in the first quarter. Growth in the first two months of the year prior to the viral onset had been estimated at 3.1% by the Atlanta Fed GDPNow model.  

The current economic situation is unique. A normally functioning fully employed modern industrial economy has never been cast into recession essentially overnight.  Estimates for the decline in US GDP in the second quarter range from 5% to 10% with unemployment rising from 3.5% to 7% or higher.  About 40% of the US population is under some form of voluntary or government mandated restriction. 

The most vulnerable employees, hourly workers in the hospitality and restaurant industries probably made up the bulk of this week's claims. With their cash flow decimated few restaurants could make payroll. In the hotel business, if the rooms are empty they hardly need to be cleaned.

Beyond this there is a vast group of small to medium size businesses, retail stores, plumbers, electricians and the like whose employees have substantial and necessary skills and who would be hard to replace.

It is a fair assumption that all of these business owners plan to continue and their employees are key to resumption. How these business owners handle the slowdown is the economic question of the moment.

Much of the economic outcome depends on the success of efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. The longer its takes to contain the illness the more prevalent will become business closures and unemployment. In the US where economic activity is largely the product of consumer spending, any substantial decline in consumption translates quickly into lost employment and production.  

The more than $2 trillion support package expected to be passed by Congress on Friday and signed by President Trump on Saturday will help to mitigate the economic impact by providing assistance to businesses large and small and a $1200 grant to many Americans.

Next week’s initial jobless claims on Thursday and non-farm payrolls on Friday will be a second window into the economic carnage of the viral outbreak.  Payrolls are predicted to fall 293,000 and the unemployment rate to jump 0.5% to 4%. Expectations for the jobs report will be conditioned by the claims numbers the prior day.  

Market response

Equites continued their rally after the claims numbers, with the Dow rising by more than 1,000 point in the late morning but that was largely due to the completion of the rescue package in Washington. Oddly, despite the enormous job losses, markets finally have some concrete numbers and that is better than the unknown.

The dollar saw moderate losses against the majors with the euro rising above 1.1000 for the first time in six session and the dollar yen falling through 110.00 as the crisis demand for the currency ebbed.  

US Treasury were stable with the 10-year yield holding at 0.81% and the 2-year at 0.28%.  The 3-month remained slightly negative at -0.03% after falling below zero for the first time yesterday.

West Texas Intermediate was down 4.65% at $23.35, ( 12:15 pm NY)





Information on these pages contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Markets and instruments profiled on this page are for informational purposes only and should not in any way come across as a recommendation to buy or sell in these assets. You should do your own thorough research before making any investment decisions. FXStreet does not in any way guarantee that this information is free from mistakes, errors, or material misstatements. It also does not guarantee that this information is of a timely nature. Investing in Open Markets involves a great deal of risk, including the loss of all or a portion of your investment, as well as emotional distress. All risks, losses and costs associated with investing, including total loss of principal, are your responsibility. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of FXStreet nor its advertisers. The author will not be held responsible for information that is found at the end of links posted on this page.

If not otherwise explicitly mentioned in the body of the article, at the time of writing, the author has no position in any stock mentioned in this article and no business relationship with any company mentioned. The author has not received compensation for writing this article, other than from FXStreet.

FXStreet and the author do not provide personalized recommendations. The author makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability of this information. FXStreet and the author will not be liable for any errors, omissions or any losses, injuries or damages arising from this information and its display or use. Errors and omissions excepted.

The author and FXStreet are not registered investment advisors and nothing in this article is intended to be investment advice.

Feed news

Latest Forex Analysis

Latest Forex Analysis

Editors’ Picks

EUR/USD treads water around 1.1600 after US data

EUR/USD continues to fluctuate in its daily range around 1.1600 as the latest data releases from the US failed to trigger a meaningful market reaction. New Home Sales in the US surged by 14% in September and consumer sentiment improved in October.


GBP/USD retreats to 1.3800 area as dollar holds its ground

GBP/USD advanced to a daily high of 1.3830 during the European session but reversed its direction in the second half of the day. With the upbeat US data helping the greenback find demand, the pair retreated to 1.3800 area. Eyes on Brexit headlines.


Gold extends daily slide below $1,800 on rising US T-bond yields, upbeat data

The bearish pressure surrounding gold remains intact in the American trading hours on Tuesday. Rising US Treasury bond yields and the modest USD strength continues to weigh on XAU/USD. 

Gold News

Three reasons why MATIC price will breakout to a new all-time high at $4.5

MATIC price is breaking out of an ascending triangle pattern, hinting at a 150% ascent. Transactional data shows barely any resistance level ahead for Polygon, suggesting a swift move higher. The Layer 2 solution has been at the center of DeFi evolution.

Read more

AMC entertainment gains as meme stock rally continues from previous week

NYSE:AMC gained 0.63% during Monday’s trading session. Meme stocks rally on Monday as momentum carries over from the previous week. AMC CEO Adam Aron hints that the company could be getting into the cryptocurrency business.

Read more