OAKLAND, Calif. - The U.S. Labor Department says 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment in the last week; a number so sobering that it's hard to contemplate.
Each number, another tragedy that will likely take a long time to recover from.
More than 6,600,000 new unemployment claims nationwide; almost a million of those in California.
"We've never seen anything remotely, remotely comparable," said labor lawyer and former Employment Development Department Director Michael Bernick. Bernick said, in just three weeks, the nation has seen more than 16 million new claims. That's about 10% the entire U.S. workforce.
Ian Smith is a laid off restaurant worker. "If this continues to last in a way that's unsustainable for my finances, looking for a job in this time with the economic implications that the [COVID-19] virus is also having, it's going to be really, really tough," said Mr. Smith.
California, by far, has sustained the largest job bleed out. "We had over 925,000 initial new claims just filed the week of April 4th. That's added to the over a million claims filed the previous weeks. So we now have over 2 million new claims filed within just two weeks said Bernick.
The national and state unemployment rates are now surely well over what they were during the worst of the Great Recession in 2008-2009 and many more job losses are coming.
Bernick said any federal aid or paycheck protection, including the more than $2 trillion announced by the Federal Reserve Thursday, is to keep the economy from collapsing. But from an economic standpoint we should not and cannot wait for the virus to be totally conquered.
"We need now, to start looking at a plan in California to start what opening up the economy would look like. It's not too early to think of this," said Bernick. He said in all likelihood, reopening would involve a gradually phased in combination of regular testing, workplace social distancing and some residual working from home for some workers.
"A period of months, even perhaps longer to get this economy restarted. Most people I've talked to, most workers want to got back to work in some phase," said Bernick.
While there still is some hiring going on, losses far outweigh the gains.