More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, double the record total that set just one week ago.
In Ohio, the Department of Job and Family Services released figures Wednesday showing that for the week ending Tuesday, more than 272,000 initial jobless claims were filed, setting a record for the second straight week.
The number of initial jobless claims filed in the Buckeye State over the last two weeks stands at 468,414, the agency said, adding that last year, unemployment claims totaled nearly 365,000 for the entire year.
Ohio JFS reported that more than $45 million in unemployment compensation payments have been issued to more than 108,000 claimants over the last two weeks.
Economists are forecasting the surge in layoffs may lead to as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of the month, potentially spiking the unemployment rate to as high as 15 percent.
If that prediction comes to pass, the labor department said it would exceed the previous unemployment record that dogged the nation during a deep recession that peaked in late 1982.
The Congressional Budget Office said that recession, driven by the 1973 Arab oil embargo, fuel shortages, gas lines and tight money policies six years later, and the Federal Reserve’s attempt to rein in inflation that spiked interest rates in 1981, caused the jobless numbers to hit 10.8 percent by Thanksgiving and Christmas in 1982.
Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis warned on Tuesday that at the current rate of nationwide job loss, the country’s unemployment rate could reach a stunning 32 percent by the end of June.
By contrast, the jobless rate peaked at 24.9 percent in 1933 during the Great Depression.
In a news release, JFS said that each claim was important, and that the agency recognized the hardships that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on many Ohio families.
It said it had been working around the clock to streamline performance and boost capacity by adding servers, so the online claims system could handle what it called “an unprecedented influx of claims,” which had affected processing times.
The agency reminded those filing that during previous economic downturns, claims came in waves as the economy worsened and businesses closed gradually over months.
In the case of forced business closures caused by the current pandemic, jobless claims came in all at once and created what JFS compared to “a tsunami,” which it said had at times overwhelmed Ohio’s 16-year-old computerized system.
To that end, the agency said it had reassigned more than 300 Ohio JFS employees to assist with the volume of calls in an attempt to increase service capabilities.
Both the Ohio and Highland County office of Job and Family Services urged individuals to file their claims online, if possible, at unemployment.ohio.gov.
Those without internet access or who need help with PIN resets can call 1-877-644-6562 (OHIO-JOB) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays.
The agency stressed that workers who lost their jobs as a direct result of the coronavirus can enter the mass layoff number “2000180” on their applications, but if they had already submitted claims without that number, they didn’t need to add it.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.