HARRISBURG — About 645,000 Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment compensation in the 10 days since Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a statewide shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to new numbers released Thursday in the clearest picture to date of the damage to the economy.
On the Sunday prior to Wolf’s order to close all “nonessential businesses,” the state recorded roughly 4,000 new jobless claims. The following day, when Wolf made the announcement, the state received more than 51,000 new claims, according to data from the Department of Labor and Industry.
The state is averaging 64,574 new claims per day.
“For a good while they were experiencing the lowest unemployment in history," said Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R., Washington), majority chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee. "And now, within a week, they are experiencing the highest number in history, so it is quite a swing.”
The Department of Labor and Industry attributes the job loss to layoffs in the hotel, food services, transportation, warehousing, and educational service industries.
Nationally, the federal government reported 3.3 million new unemployment claims for last week, the highest number since data have been collected. The number far surpassed a 1982 record of 695,000 claims in a single week.
But Pennsylvania saw significantly more claims filed last week than anywhere else in the country, and had nearly 200,000 more claims than the states with the next highest amounts, Ohio and California.
The state had declined to report official claims numbers until the federal report was released Thursday, following a Trump administration mandate to embargo the information out of concern the tidal wave of unemployment could influence financial markets.
The state Department of Labor and Industry said Thursday it had reversed course and would post daily updates starting Friday.
“We have never seen anything like this,” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the AFL-CIO, which represents roughly 700,000 people. He said the impact on workers from the coronavirus dwarfs the fallout experienced amid the steel shutdowns in the 1980s and in the Great Recession.
As the numbers began rolling in over the last week, he said, “it was just overwhelming. People were just shocked.”