In response to the release this morning of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) weekly unemployment claims data, Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and one of the nation’s leading experts on unemployment insurance, released the following statement:

“This morning’s jobless claims confirm that the United States is in the thralls of a catastrophic unemployment crisis, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. A record 3.28 million Americans surged into the unemployment system in the week ending March 21, nearly five times the previous high-water mark of 695,000 claims in October 1982. This represents the single worst one-day piece of labor market news in America’s history.

“A full 2.24% of all Americans covered by the program reached out for aid in just a single week, an eleven-fold increase in claims from last week’s already elevated levels. Worse, this torrent of layoffs and furloughs will only grow in the coming weeks, as one in four Americans are now under a stay-at-home order. As economist James Parrott and I projected yesterday, this tsunami could soon lead to nearly 10 million new workers who need to receive unemployment checks to stay afloat.

“Just as Americans are pushing hospitals to their limits, we are also overwhelming the nation’s first responder to economic distress—unemployment insurance. Today’s jobless numbers are the starkest reminder yet of the need for Congress to beef up our unemployment safety net immediately.

“The CARES Act passed by the Senate last night was a good and needed first step, and the House should approve the package by unanimous consent Friday morning. We project that enacting the $600 weekly supplement alone will benefit some 11 million workers, delivering up to $115 billion in additional money to affected workers. But we must do more. Moving forward, we should expand UI eligibility to young people and the millions more currently left out of the program, and shore up a system under greater strain than it’s ever faced before.”

For more information, see Stettner’s two recent pieces on the growing unemployment crisis: