Skyrocketing Unemployment in Lockdown Likely Means Hardship for Veterans

Unemployment claims for the third week of March soared to 3.28 million, a staggering and unprecedented tenfold increase from the previous week as the novel coronavirus pandemic wrecked what had been a booming economy, the Labor Department reported.

Initial claims were 3,283,000 for the week ending March 21, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said in a Twitter post ahead of the release of the full report, which could signal a return to the double-digit jobless rates of the Great Recession of 2008 for veterans.

“We know it’s coming, everybody does,” Thomas Porter, executive vice president at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told last week when BLS put the total of initial claims at 280,000.

As historically bad as the BLS numbers were, they may not even reflect the scope of the pandemic’s impact, which has shut down much of the economy and the American way of life.

Related: Navy Boot Camp Trainers Must Spend 90 Days Away from Families in Lockdown Measure

Many part-time and low-wage workers, as well as the workforce of the so-called “gig economy” of independent contractors and temporary employees, don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

In addition, unemployment offices in several states have reported being unable to handle the crush of calls and applications as systems crashed.

The BLS numbers were a shock even for the analysts who had been predicting a major spike in claims.

“In the whole history of initial claims, there’s never been anything remotely close to that,” Ben Herzon, executive director of the business data firm IHS Markit, said of the huge uptick in claims, The New York Times reported.

This story will be updated.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at

Read more: The Latest on the Military’s COVID-19 Response

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