3.3 million Americans are now jobless

Visitors to the Department of Labor are turned away at the door by personnel due to closures over coronavirus concerns, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Nearly 3.3 million Americans registered to claim unemployment benefits for the week ended March 21, according to the Department of Labour data.

This is a record high unemployment level as the economy goes into lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

America has not seen this many people being unemployed since 1982 when unemployment claims hit 695,000.

Restaurants, bars, movie theatres, hotels and gyms have been closed across the country. Car firms have halted production and air travel has fallen precipitously.

According to economists, a fifth of the workforce is on some form of lockdown.

State officials, who process unemployment claims, have reported being overwhelmed by requests for the benefits. And analysts are indicating that this means the situation could be even worse than the data currently show.

Economists are predicting that it’s going to get even worse. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Economics, said he expects to see the unemployment rate increase to at least 6.5 per cent in March.

“I’ve been writing about the US economy … since 1996, and this is the single worst data point I’ve seen, by far,” he wrote.