U.S. jobless claims surge to record 3.28 million

A record 3.28 million!

That’s how many Americans signed up for first-time jobless benefits last week... a jump dwarfing the rise of nearly 300,000 the week before.

It's a surge in unemployment claims never seen before in American history – even during the depths of the financial crisis a decade ago, weekly claims topped out at 670,000 in March, 2009.

Thursday's number was more than four-and-a-half times higher.

And that’s just the number of people signing up for the first week of jobless assistance. The number seeking to continue their existing benefits jumped to 1.8 million.

Add that together and that means some 5 million Americans are recently out of work.

Plus, these numbers don't show those working in the gig economy who are not eligible for state unemployment benefits.

Strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic have brought the economy to a halt, unleashing a tidal wave of layoffs, and slamming the brakes on the largest employment boom in U.S. history.

Weekly jobless claims are the clearest evidence yet of the coronavirus epidemic's devastating impact on the U.S. economy.

Congress is trying to soften the blow with a massive $2 trillion economic stimulus package which includes help for the millions recently laid off. The legislation will provide $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid – by boosting payouts and extending their duration.

But that may not be enough to prevent a deep economic contraction.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday told NBC the U.S. was already likely in a recession, but would bounce back once the spread of the virus was under control.

Under his leadership, the Fed has taken extraordinary steps, spending trillions of dollars, to shore up confidence in public markets and to keep money flowing to desperate borrowers.

Investors think there’s more pain ahead, especially when it comes to a spike in unemployment, but they also think the market may have hit a short-term bottom and stocks are rising for the third day in a row.