Coronavirus causes biggest unemployment spike in US history

Weekly jobless claims in the US surge to a record 3.28 million.

Carrie Mihalcik Former Managing Editor / News
Carrie was a managing editor at CNET focused on breaking and trending news. She'd been reporting and editing for more than a decade, including at the National Journal and Current TV.
Expertise Breaking News, Technology Credentials
  • Carrie has lived on both coasts and can definitively say that Chesapeake Bay blue crabs are the best.
Carrie Mihalcik

A nurse prepares to give a coronavirus swab test at a drive-thru testing station in Stamford, Connecticut.

John Moore/Getty Images

Americans filed claims for unemployment benefits in records numbers last week as businesses closed and some cities issued stay-at-home orders in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The US Labor Department on Thursday reported that jobless claims surged to 3.28 million for the week ended March 21.

The number of claims is a nearly fivefold increase over the previous high of 695,000 set in 1982. It also tops predictions from Goldman Sachs and Bank of America last week. 

US Department of Labor

COVID-19, the disease caused by a newly identified coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the globe. The World Health Organization on March 11 declared the outbreak a pandemic, saying it expected to see the number of cases and deaths continue climbing. As of Thursday, there were more than 69,000 cases of coronavirus in the US.

The Labor Department pointed to the COVID-19 outbreak for the sharp rise in claims. 

"Nearly every state providing comments cited the COVID-19 virus impacts," said the Labor Department. "States continued to cite services industries broadly, particularly accommodation and food services. Additional industries heavily cited for the increases included the health care and social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing industries." 

Watch this: Will coronavirus crash the internet?

Our new reality now that coronavirus has sent the world online

See all photos