Coronavirus pandemic hit half of Americans' finances, poll finds

80% want more testing before schools, restaurants, sporting events reopen

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Half of Americans in a new poll say they have been affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic, which has paralyzed the U.S. economy and pushed millions onto the unemployment roll.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Wednesday revealed that 50 percent of Americans said they or someone in their household has either lost a job or had their hours reduced as a result of the virus outbreak. That is up from 18 percent a month ago.

The economic toll is even harsher on people of color, those without a college degree, younger people and individuals who make less money, the poll found. Among non-whites, 60 percent of respondents said they or someone in their household had lost a job or hours, compared with 43 percent of whites.

About 55 percent of individuals who earn less than $55,000 said they or someone in their household had lost work, compared with 47 percent of those who earn more than $55,000.

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In the five weeks since a majority of states issued strict stay-at-home mandates for residents and directed nonessential businesses to close, more than 26 million workers have applied for first-time unemployment benefits, erasing the entirety of the 22.78 million labor market gains since the Great Recession.

With a labor force that totals about 162 million people, the claims figures suggest the unemployment rate is about 16 percent, or roughly one in six Americans, which is significantly higher than the 10 percent peak during the 2008 financial crisis. The previous one-week high for jobless claims was 695,800 in 1982.

A growing number of economists have warned the so-called "Great Lockdown" will push the global economy into the worst recession since the Great Depression when unemployment spiked to 25 percent.

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Despite the bleak outlook, at least 80 percent of respondents said they do not want schools, restaurants or large sporting events to begin taking place until there’s additional testing.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they do not want Americans to physically go back to work without widespread testing for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Still, that number differentiates among political parties: 84 percent of Democrats thought it was a bad idea, compared to just 47 percent of Republicans.

The poll of 1,008 American adults was conducted between April 21-26 and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

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