Coronavirus pandemic pushes jobless figures into record territory

Britain Virus Outbreak
Britain Virus Outbreak Copyright Frank Augstein/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
By Euronews
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Europe is seeing record numbers of jobless as business shut and travel all but stops over the global pandemic.


A record 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — and the economic pain isn't just on the other side of the Atlantic. The number of people now out of work in the States and in Europe rivals the number seen during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Nearly half the world's population is now living under some sort of lockdown measures. That means businesses are closed, and people are being told the best thing they can do for their health and that of everyone around them is stay home. And despite hefty government bailout and wage subsidy packages, many businesses are doling out mass temporary layoffs, or simply folding.

In Spain, March marked the highest ever monthly increase of jobless people, jumping by 9.3%.

"This is an absolutely exceptional increase compared to any other month," said Spanish labour minister Yolanda Díaz Pérez. The south of the country is particularly hard-hit by the loss of tourism revenue, which accounts for about 15 per cent of the country's entire GDP.

It's a similar picture in the UK.

On Wednesday officials revealed that almost a million people had asked for welfare support over the past two weeks, around ten times more than usually apply.

The government has pledged to fund 80 per cent of salaries for employees and the self-employed.

In France, Emmanuel Macron's administration is guaranteeing 84 per cent of pay packets.

"337,000 companies have applied, the vast majority of which are small businesses," said labour minister Muriel Pénicaud. "And these applications concern 3.6 million employees."

The agriculture minister has called for those who are out of work to head to the fields and, "join the big army of French agriculture". As a result of border closures, many countries are struggling to find enough seasonal workers to help with upcoming harvests, which could result in yet another economic blow if not enough help is available.

Meanwhile, Austria's number of registered unemployed people jumped by two thirds last month as the pandemic wiped out tourism and retail jobs.

In response to the crisis across the European Union, the bloc is proposing its own scheme to support employers and the people they hire. The program, called SURE, would allow the EU to issue loans of up to 100 billion euros to member states to bolster unemployment programs.

The question now for economists and governments is whether the economy will jump back when the world is ready to re-open, in what's called a 'V' shaped curve of economic recovery. If not, a 'U' shaped recovery could keep people out of work longer and leave governments mired in a financial swamp for years to come.

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