Jobless claims hit record high amid COVID-19 precautions

With 3.28 million workers displaced due to impacts from coronavirus, experts say this could provide an opportunity for a "new talent market."
By: | March 26, 2020 • 2 min read
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Unemployment claims spiked more than 1,000% since last Thursday, as the Labor Department released one of its first reports looking at numbers since social distancing and remote work have taken hold of the American workforce.

Today’s numbers shadow jobless claims from the Great Recession’s peak of 665,000 in March 2009 and have even shattered the all-time mark of 695,000 in October 1982. The previous week’s reporting had been adjusted to 282,000, but before the true impacts of the coronavirus had been felt.

Although jobless claims did mark the highest on record, stock markets remained optimistic as some experts noted the unemployment numbers could hold a silver lining in a rebirth of the talent market.

“The world of talent management has overnight been given an opportunity to reinvent itself and move away from practices that help the HR function and shift IMMEDIATELY to functions that help the business and the workers,” Jason Averbook, co-founder and CEO of Leapgen and columnist for HRE noted on Twitter.

“This explosion of first-time claims for unemployment benefits, topping 3 million, demonstrates the toll unprecedented efforts to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak take on the job market,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at, noted on Twitter. “While the record number of claims is shocking, it is not totally surprising.”


In efforts to help U.S. workers, the Senate passed a $2 trillion emergency aid proposal late Wednesday night, described by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as putting the country on “wartime footing.” It passed by a vote of 96-0. The House is scheduled to vote Friday, then the package goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

Also see 8 benefits employers should zero in on during the COVID-19 pandemic

“Combating this disease has forced our country to put huge parts of national life on pause and triggered layoffs at a breathtaking pace,” McConnell said.


“This is not a moment of celebration but rather one of necessity,” added Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “The more than $40 billion of additional help on the way to New York is essential to save lives, preserve paychecks, support small businesses and much more,” he said of his home state and epicenter of the U.S. outbreak.

In other efforts to stem the impacts of the virus on the economy, lawmakers earlier passed the Families First Act, providing paid leave and expanding unemployment benefits, among other provisions.

Nick Otto is HRE’s senior digital editor. He is a professional communicator with more than a decade of demonstrated accomplishments in newspaper and trade publishing. He has spent the past five years covering the employee benefits space and holds bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. He can be reached at or follow him on twitter @Ottografs.

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