US job losses surge, April unemployment claims highest ever recorded

The U.S. Labor Department reports that more than 5.1 million workers filed unemployment claims in the last week adding to the largest numbers ever seen in a one month period. There's no way to sugar coat these relentless numbers and we're only a month into them.

"This is a whole different magnitude the numbers what we're seeing," said longtime labor lawyer and former director of the state EDD, Michael Bernick.

Bernick minces no words about unemployment statewide and nationwide.

"We had an additional 5.1 million new unemployment claims nationwide. That brings us to over 21 million just in the past four weeks," said Bernick.

In pre-virus California, where we had been averaging about 42,000 new unemployment claims a week, the last four week have been devastating; rocketing state unemployment well past the worst of the worst in the Great Recession.

"We had an additional 660,000 claims this past week and we now up to over 2.6 million," said Bernick.

And, the hits just keep on coming.

Daniel Flaming, president of the The Economic Roundtable, a non-profit, non-partisan California think tank that analyses economic, social, and environmental conditions, says coronavirus is undermining California's workforce as never before.

"The share of workers at risk, using the factors from the Federal Reserve Bank is about 43% of the labor force. That's much bigger than actual unemployment is right now but it's a lot of workers at risk," said Flaming.

If the shutdown stays in place for a long time and the reopening of the nation goes slow, the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank has projected that as many as 47 million Americans could lose their jobs.

That would raise unemployment to 32%; far above the percentage back in the Great Depression of the 1930's.

"I think we could be looking at something like that, it could be extremely painful, said Flaming who also said, "I think it's difficult to bounce back quickly."

So, says Flaming, bouncing back may require state and Federal programs harkening back to the Great Depression.

"We may need to look at public employment interventions, In the very near term, we need to make sure than people have food. We need to make sure there are food banks in the hard hit communities," said Flaming.

While all of this is going on, state and city budgets nationwide have mostly bled out and Congress has yet to address that issue.