most stunning collapse the U.S. job market has ever witnessed, and economists warn unemployment could reach levels not seen since the Depression, as the economic damage piles up around the world.
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The bleak news Thursday — a record-shattering 6.6 million new unemployment claims on top of last week’s unprecedented 3.3 million — came as the competition for scarce ventilators, masks and other protective gear seemed to grow more desperate and deaths mounted with alarming speed in Italy, Spain and New York, the most lethal hot spot in the nation, with nearly 2,400 lives lost.
But the true numbers are believed to be much higher, because of testing shortages, many mild cases that have gone unreported, and suspicions that some countries are covering up the extent of their outbreaks.
The mounting economic fallout almost certainly signals the onset of a global recession, with job losses that are likely to dwarf those of the Great Recession more than a decade ago, said an AP report.
“My anxiety is through the roof right now, not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Laura Wieder, laid off from her job managing a now-closed sports bar in Bellefontaine, Ohio.
With over 220,000 people infected in the U.S. and the death toll topping 5,300, sobering preparations were under way. The Federal Emergency Management Agency asked the Pentagon for 100,000 body bags because of the possibility funeral homes will be overwhelmed, the military said.
The Democratic Party pushed its nominating convention back a month, to mid-August. And federal authorities proposed a $611,000 fine against the Seattle-area nursing home connected to at least 40 coronavirus deaths, accusing it of infractions that included failure to report and rapidly manage the outbreak.
Elsewhere around the world, the number of people applying for welfare benefits in Britain increased nearly tenfold to almost 1 million in the past couple of weeks. European unions estimate at least a million on the Continent lost their jobs over the same period, and say the actual number is probably far higher. Spain alone added over 300,000 to its unemployment rolls in March.
But the job losses there appear to be far smaller than in the U.S. because of Europe’s greater social safety nets, including government programs to reduce workers’ hours without laying them off, in the hope of bringing them back quickly once the crisis passes.
With its health care system in dire shape, Spain reported a record one-day number of deaths, 950, bringing its overall toll to about 10,000, despite signs that the infection rate is slowing.
Italy recorded 760 more deaths, for a total of 13,900, the worst of any country, but new infections continued to level off. More than 10,000 medical personnel in Italy have been infected and 69 doctors have died, authorities said.
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