The number of Americans who filed initial jobless claims last week shattered previous records after businesses nationwide closed their doors or reduced services because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department reported Thursday morning that 3,283,000 Americans filed initial unemployment insurance claims for the week ending March 21, nearly five times as many claims as the previous record of 695,000 during October 1982. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster notes the highest number of weekly claims during the Great Recession was 665,000 claims in March 2009.
“This isn’t something we have experience with, this kind of suddenness,” said Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. She noted, however, that the massive spike in claims was “not unexpected” and expects high numbers of initial jobless claims over the next few weeks before it tapers off. “It could be that over 10 million people could lose their jobs by June, so these claims are going to be coming in steady,” Gould said.
Despite the unemployment numbers, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day up 1,351 points, or 6.4%. The S&P 500 finished Thursday up more than 17% since the close on Monday.
In a press release, the Labor Department said data from states indicates that the service industries have been greatly impacted, especially accommodation and food service industries. Other industries cited for the spike in claims were the healthcare and social assistance, entertainment, transportation and manufacturing industries. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the jobless claims are “not relevant” right now because of the stimulus package that the Senate passed late Wednesday night. It provides direct payments to some Americans, provides funding for businesses to keep workers on payroll, and increases unemployment aid and expands who can apply for it.
Gould is hopeful that legislation will provide relief for workers and believes it could lessen the effects coronavirus is having on the economy. But she disputed Mnuchin’s claim, saying the jobless numbers are “definitely relevant” because the stimulus package hasn’t been signed into law yet, and people don’t have the extra money in their pockets that it will provide. “They need that money to be able to pay their bills,” Gould said.
Before Thursday’s numbers were released, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told NBC News that the U.S. “may well be in a recession,” but said there is “nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy.” He expects economic activity to pick back up once the virus is under control, possibly in the second half of the year. “The virus is going to dictate the timetable here,” Powell said. “The first order of business will be to get the spread of the virus under control, and then resume economic activity.”
FROM THE CANDIDATES
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
The Trump Campaign headquarter offices in Northern Virginia will remain closed until April 24, reports CBS News White House producer Fin Gomez. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has issued a statewide restriction due to the coronavirus pandemic, and a senior source tells CBS that campaign lawyers had advised it would be a misdemeanor to fail to comply. CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson says the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee announced earlier in March that they are turning to digital and virtual events out of an abundance of caution.
The Texas Democratic Party says it will be holding its state convention online as a result of concern about coronavirus, CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster reports. The move came after Bexar County, home to San Antonio, where the convention was supposed to be held, approved an emergency public health declaration that banned events with more than 50 people through the time the convention was scheduled in early June.
“Make no mistake, there will be a Texas Democratic Convention, and the Party’s business will be done,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “As the largest state convention in the country, the Texas Democratic Party knows that we have an obligation to Texas Democrats everywhere to make this convention open to everyone. We view this as an opportunity to do something groundbreaking: by moving into a digital forum, we will make it easier for individuals across Texas to participate by removing barriers associated with travel costs, missed work, or physical ability.” Texas Democrats say they will announce more details about how the event is structured in the coming weeks.
LIFE AFTER 2020
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar along with Senator Ron Wyden touted $400 million in election funding as a “first step” after the Senate approved a massive $2 trillion relief bill late Wednesday night. The designated funding, contained in the stimulus package, would go through the Election Assistance Commission. States that apply would get at least $3 million and disbursements would be issued within 30 days. “The whole idea is to get the money out immediately so states can use it to start or expand on, for the most part, their absentee and early balloting methods,” Klobuchar said in a call with reporters Thursday.
Klobuchar and Wyden have introduced a bill that would enable states to expand vote-by-mail, allow more time for in-person early voting and assist with costs, like hiring and training new poll workers. Klobuchar told CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion she believes the measure will be revisited when the Senate reconvenes next month.
“We have a little more time right now. We have the fact that these last few (coronavirus) bills were just emergency reactions for understandable reasons,” Klobuchar said. “Now that these are done, of course, there is more work ahead and Senator Schumer has already said this is one of his top priorities.” Wyden said he also believes the legislation will gain momentum as more primaries are postponed. “This is now a major public safety issue,” Wyden warned. “We’re looking at the possibility, if there is a worst-case scenario, of a very stark choice that people will have to either vote by mail or will not be able to vote at all.”
Separately, Klobuchar announced on Twitter late this afternoon that her husband, John, who has COVID-19 is out of the hospital. “He took a good turn, was just released & is now recovering at home! Thanks to those who cared for him & for all front line health care workers,” Klobuchar tweeted.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who focused on the effects of coronavirus at the end of her presidential campaign, today released an outline for the U.S. to drastically increase the number of coronavirus tests available in the U.S. The plan cites a bill introduced by Tammy Baldwin, co-sponsored by Warren, that would force President Donald Trump to significantly utilize the Defense Production Act, increasing funding for medical supplies and N95 masks. It also calls for Congress to develop a fund to pay to issue grants to test manufacturers. She also says the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps should be provided funds to pay temporary workers to administer tests. Warren also wants the demographic information of those tested to be provided to HHS to ensure tests are fairly distributed.
As a presidential candidate, CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says Warren had focused on the effects of the spread of coronavirus early on. In late January, she released a plan for preventing and containing infectious diseases. Over the subsequent weeks, the senator released and updated a $750 billion package that included a $400 billion stimulus to handle the effects of the virus. As Warren’s campaign lost steam, her ability to deal with a challenge like that posed by coronavirus became a final pitch to voters. “This crisis is a reminder that this primary isn’t a game. We are picking a president — and we need someone whose core values can be trusted, who has a plan for how to govern, and who can actually get it done,” Warren said in Houston the weekend before Super Tuesday and before she left the race. “I will be that president.”
ON THE ATTACK
The Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA Action is expanding an ad buy after the Trump campaign threatened action against stations airing its ad in battleground states. The ad called “Exponential Threat” uses Donald Trump’s own words earlier this year about the coronavirus to slam his response to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says it started airing on Tuesday in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin as part of Priorities USA’s $6 million TV and digital investment in battleground states highlighting the president’s response to the pandemic.
On Thursday, the group announced it would spend another $600,000 to air the ad in Arizona as well. The move comes after the Trump campaign on Wednesday sent cease-and-desist letters to TV stations airing the ad, claiming the ad contains “false assertions” and demanding the stations stop airing it or face legal action. But according to Priorities USA, the ad continues to air in the four battleground states. “The fact that Trump is going to such great lengths to keep the American people from hearing his own words adds to the urgency of communicating them far and wide,” said Priorities USA chairman Guy Cecil in a statement.
ACTS OF KINDNESS
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
For weeks, colleges across the country have been migrating to online classes for the duration of the semester to prevent students from meeting in-person, to stem the spread of the coronavirus. When Benedict College in South Carolina decided it would close, there were still hundreds of cash-strapped students on campus wondering how to get home to their families. That is, until Benedict president Roslyn Artis and her team helped more than 100 domestic and international students go home, reports CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell. Deveall McClendon, a student at Benedict College, told Mitchell he wouldn’t have been able to make it home without assistance from the school. McClendon, a senior sports management student at Benedict, said he was happy that the college went “above and beyond” to meet the needs of students. “I’m just still happy that I was able to get around to be with my family.”
An online survey of more than 500 community college and university students conducted by the non-profit organization Rise, showed that 21% of students reported they hadn’t experienced significant changes as result of the coronavirus aside from the transition to online learning. However, 75% of students said they’re experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression or stress and 20% lack access to a mobile device or Wi-Fi. “A lot of people relied on the computers in the library and like equipment at school that they needed to use because they didn’t have it themselves [because] they couldn’t afford it,” said University of South Carolina junior Jalen Hodges. “I can’t really use a lot of the software, equipment, studio, and stuff like that…just doing online, like video calls and stuff isn’t enough.”
The lasting impacts of how the coronavirus outbreak will impact college-level students remains to be seen but for the time being, Benedict College sophomore Jayla Berry is just happy that her university was able to help her get home to Michigan. “I will personally be forever grateful for what they gave to me and when I get back to school I’m going to find whoever paid for my flight,” Berry told CBS News. “I [am] going to give them a nice gesture like a thank you card…because they really didn’t have to do that.”