Today, the U.S. Labor Department released figures showing that 2.4 million people filed for unemployment in the past week. That comes just weeks after 20.5 million jobs were abruptly lost last April. Since mid-March, when COVID-19 forced lockdowns across the country, 38.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment. According to CNN, that number constitutes 23.7% of the U.S. labor force.
Two weeks ago, the unemployment rate hit 14.7% — the highest level since the Great Depression. It will likely climb even higher as the Labor Dept. updates figures. What seems unlikely is Americans getting further help from Congress in this time of crisis. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief package that would include $600 in weekly benefits, but the proposal seems DOA in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today that he has no intention of continuing those benefits. He added, during a conference call, that Republicans are “going to have to clean up the Democrats’ crazy policy that is paying people more to remain unemployed than they would earn if they went back to work.” He and Senator Mitt Romney reportedly complained that benefits were “incentivizing” people to stay home and not return to work. Because the last thing you want to do is have people stay home during a global pandemic. (I guess it doesn’t matter that going back to work right now might expose them to COVID-19?)