Record-Breaking Unemployment Signals Hard Times Ahead for Veterans

Veterans network at a job fair.
Hundreds of representatives from businesses small and large attend the 2019 Small Business Forum in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., Oct. 24, 2019. (Stephan Baack/U.S. Army photo)

In possibly the grimmest statistic yet to come out of an economy shattered by the novel coronavirus pandemic, more than 6.6 million Americans joined the unemployment lines in the week ending March 28, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The 6,648,000 claims for unemployment benefits more than doubled the adjusted number of 3,307,000 claims filed the week before and brought the total for March to more than 10.1 million, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

The 6.6 million figure "marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series" and reflects the impact of COVID-19, BLS said.

"Nearly every state providing comments cited the COVID-19 virus," according to the report.

The stunning numbers also are probably an undercount. Many states have reported being overwhelmed by the volume of calls seeking to file claims as systems crashed.

Related: Skyrocketing Unemployment in Lockdown Likely Means Hardship for Veterans

In New York state, the hardest hit so far by the pandemic, the number of claims filed in the week ending March 28 was 366,403, up from 79,999 the week before. California reported 878,727 claims filed, compared to 186,333 the week before. Florida saw 227,000 claims, compared to 74,313 the week before.

The numbers also defied comparison. Until the numbers for March began rolling in, the worst week for unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982.

Veterans service organizations warned that the skyrocketing claims for unemployment benefits signal a grim report for veterans Friday, when BLS will announce the overall unemployment rates for March.

The jobless rate for all veterans was 3.6% in February, compared to 3.5% in January. As is usually the case, the rates for post-9/11 veterans were higher. The unemployment rate in February for post-9/11 veterans was 4.5%, compared to 4.4% in January, BLS said.

This story will be updated.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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