More than 6.6 million people filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, setting another staggering record. The prior week’s figure was revised upwards to 3.3 million. That means the COVID-19 pandemic has now erased more than four years of job gains in just two weeks, with almost 10 million Americans joining the ranks of the unemployed.
At first, the job losses were largely limited to restaurants, hotels, retail stores, travel services, and airlines. But now, as local businesses cancel contracts with suppliers and pull advertisements from local newspapers, COVID-19’s toll on jobs is widening.
Some newly unemployed Americans will find new jobs easily. Many employers are still hiring during COVID-19. For example, warehousing and delivery companies are urgently ramping up hiring to deal with the surge in demand for their services. Similarly, E-commerce, telemedicine, and remote work technology companies are expanding their staffs.
Others will remain safe at home and draw unemployment benefits for a few months, hoping to return to their jobs as soon as lockdowns are lifted and the restaurants, hair salons, and dental offices where they worked can reopen.
But others may find that the economy has changed beneath their feet. For those workers, it will be important to use this time to add skills and look for opportunities in unexpected places so that they can take advantage of the new—and different—jobs that emerge in the next recovery.