U.S. jobless claims surged more-than-expected for the week that ended March 14, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
The number of Americans filing applications for jobless benefits jumped to 281,000, far higher than the 220,000 forecast by economists.
It was the highest number since June 2017.
"A number of states specifically cited COVID-19 related layoffs, while many states reported increased layoffs in service-related industries broadly and in the accommodation and food services industries specifically," the Labor Department said in its release.
Companies are just starting to announce coronavirus-related layoffs, so the number is expected to skyrocket next week as much of the economy shuts down to combat the pandemic.
While it’s still unclear how sharp a coronavirus-induced downturn would be in the U.S., social distancing, which has led to school cancellations, mandatory work-from-home policies, grounded airplanes, anchored cruise ships and the abrupt closing of shops, restaurants and bars throughout the country, is almost guaranteed to cause a huge slump in consumer spending, which powers about two-thirds of the country’s GDP, indicating it could cause deep economic pain.
"It took about eight months to get to this level of jobless claims at the outset of the financial crisis," said Aberdeen Standard Investments chief economist Jeremy Lawson. "So it's really inevitable that we're going to see these numbers increase significantly further from here."