Lay­offs spike in U.S., Europe as virus shut­ters busi­nesses

Many states re­port large in­creases in ap­pli­ca­tions for un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - B Usiness - BY CHRISTO­PHER RU­GABER

Just a cou­ple of weeks ago, Erika Vega hoped her temp job at a cafe­te­ria would soon be­come per­ma­nent. But in­stead, the vi­ral out­break shut down the build­ing where she worked and left her won­der­ing where her next paycheck will come from.

Like mil­lions of Amer­i­cans and peo­ple around the world, the vi­ral out­break has left Vega in financial limbo, with­out in­come as her bills pile up.

The U.S. and global economies have come to a shud­der­ing stop, un­leash­ing a wave of lay­offs that is much larger and mov­ing much faster than job losses in pre­vi­ous down­turns. They are swamp­ing state un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits sys­tems and leav­ing many Amer­i­cans still work­ing anx­ious about whether they will be next.

Vega, 45, worked as a food pre­parer and dish­washer at a lower Man­hat­tan of­fice tower un­til last

Thurs­day.

Tens of thou­sands of laid-off work­ers have al­ready flooded state un­em­ploy­ment web­sites across the coun­try.

In the week end­ing March 14, the num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing un­em­ploy­ment aid soared by 70,000 to 281,000, the La­bor Depart­ment said Thurs­day.

That fig­ure is still low his­tor­i­cally, but it may soon sur­pass the record high of 650,000 in Jan­uary 2009.

Many states are al­ready re­port­ing big in­creases in ben­e­fit ap­pli­ca­tions this week, which weren’t in­cluded in Thurs­day’s fig­ures.

In Ohio, more than 48,000 peo­ple ap­plied for job­less ben­e­fits just this Mon­day and Tues­day. That’s up from 1,825 in the same two days the prior week.

And in neigh­bor­ing Penn­syl­va­nia, about 70,000 peo­ple sought un­em­ploy­ment aid on Tues­day, six times the to­tal for the en­tire pre­vi­ous week.

Lay­offs are rip­pling through many com­pa­nies, large and small.

The three ma­jor Amer­i­can au­tomak­ers are tem­po­rar­ily shut­ting their North Amer­i­can fac­to­ries, idling 150,000 work­ers. So are Toy­ota and Honda.

Smaller com­pa­nies have shut their doors with lit­tle time to pre­pare.

Restau­rants, bars, movie the­aters, gyms, and other firms have been or­dered to close by states and cities.

The travel in­dus­try is at risk of be­ing par­tic­u­larly dev­as­tated, with air­lines ground­ing planes and ho­tels in­creas­ingly empty. The U.S. Travel As­so­ci­a­tion pre­dicts that 4.6 mil­lion jobs in the in­dus­try could be lost.

Jon Bortz, CEO of Peb­ble­brook Ho­tel Trust, which owns 54 ho­tels in ma­jor cities in­clud­ing New York, San Fran­cisco and Seat­tle, said oc­cu­pancy lev­els have dropped into the sin­gle dig­its. The com­pany has laid off more than 4,000 of its 8,000 em­ploy­ees, and is likely to let go another 2,000 by the end of March, he said.

“We are look­ing at clos­ing the doors at more than half of our prop­er­ties,” he said.

In Europe, job losses are pil­ing up by the hun­dreds of thou­sands, though solid fig­ures are not yet avail­able.

Air­lines have an­nounced tens of thou­sands of job cuts al­ready, in­clud­ing 7,300 at Nor­we­gian Air alone, while U.K. air­line Flybe col­lapsed with a loss of 2,000 jobs.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vis­i­tors to the New York Depart­ment of La­bor were turned away at the door due to clo­sures over coro­n­avirus con­cerns on Wed­nes­day in New York. Ap­pli­ca­tions for job­less ben­e­fits are surg­ing in some states. In the week end­ing March 14, the num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing un­em­ploy­ment aid rose by 70,000 to 281,000, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. La­bor Depart­ment.

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