As new Covid-19 cases continue to surge in states throughout the US, another 1.3 million people filed for unemployment last week, highlighting the grim reality that any type of economic recovery may be far off.
While the number of new unemployment filings has decreased significantly since it peaked in April at 6 million people filing in one week, it has remained above a million each week since forced shutdowns began.
Last week, nearly 100,000 less people filed for unemployment compared with the week before, continuing a 15-week decrease in the number of new filings.
Most states began to experiment with different reopening plans in May and June, allowing businesses to reopen, often under strict guidelines, and bringing relief to some workers who had been laid off. Last week, the Department of Labor’s monthly jobs report revealed 4.8 million jobs came back in June – the highest number since the pandemic began. The unemployment rate was 11.1%, down from its peak of 13.3% in May.
But over the last few weeks, a number of states have shown an alarming uptick in new cases. The US reached 130,000 deaths due to the virus this week, the highest of any country. Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this week that states and cities reopened too quickly, causing a record-breaking number of new cases.
In response to the rapid increase of infections, states like Florida, California and Texas have had to reverse reopening measures, once again shutting down businesses, especially bars and restaurants. Economists say the effects of these reversals will likely show in the coming weeks.
And even though some jobs have come back, millions more are still indefinitely out of work. States have been working through their backlog of unemployment claims, trying to update systems working at overcapacity to handle the number of new unemployment applications.
Antonio Diaz of Miami, Florida, filed for unemployment when he was laid off from his job as a bellman at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, where he has worked for over 15 years. He received one $275 check from the state in April once his application went through, but has not received another payment since. Attempts to contact the state department in charge of distributing unemployment insurance have failed, and Diaz is quickly running out of savings.
On top of dealing with a halt in his income, Diaz’s grandfather and father have both died from the virus, leaving him to take care of his grandmother.
“I feel a mix of emotion,” Diaz said in Spanish through a translator. “I feel rage with the governor, with him holding on to our unemployment checks, and then at the same time, throughout this, I feel sadness because I’m still grieving and I have to take care of my grandmother.
“Without this help from Florida unemployment, it has made this whole process a lot more difficult and it’s made it more difficult for me to be able to support her.”