Los Angeles has banned restaurants from offering seating at places such as Grand Central Market. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON - Providing dramatic evidence of soaring layoffs amid the coronavirus outbreak, the government reported Thursday that new unemployment insurance claims spiked last week to the highest level in 2{ years.

First-time jobless claims for the week ending Saturday jumped by 70,000, or about one-third, from just the prior week. And analysts say that's just the beginning as employers have only in recent days begun to cut their payrolls in response to business closures and lockdowns across the country caused by the spreading virus.

"Today's jobless claims statistics provide the confirmation, if it was needed, that the economy has just fallen over the cliff and is turning down into a recession," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Bank in New York.

The Labor Department said 281,000 people filed first-time unemployment insurance claims last week, the highest level since September 2017.


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