Maria Bartiromo on jobless claims spiking to record-high as coronavirus shuts down economy

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Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo reacted to the “incredible number” of Americans filing for unemployment last week, saying on Thursday that “it is going to tell us that the unemployment rate will worsen in the coming months.”

Bartiromo made the comment on “America’s Newsroom” on Thursday after it was revealed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment surged to 3.28 million last week, shattering a decades-old record in jobless claims as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses around the country to shutter their doors.

Bartiromo noted on Thursday that “there were some dire predictions out there.”

“The worst expectation was 4 million unemployment claims. We actually got 3.28 million jobless claims and much of this was expected,” she explained. “We were looking for a number in the millions.”

“Last week, we had 281,000 unemployment benefits, but in the last week, in the last month, companies have been furloughing employees, unemployment has actually picked up in the last week as this coronavirus situation worsens,” she continued. “I would say at these numbers, 3.28 million unemployment claims, you’re talking about an unemployment rate of above 5 percent for sure.”

“Right now, we are at an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent,” she noted, adding that “we were at a 50-year low going into this crisis.”

“You’re talking about an unemployment rate that will no doubt move up,” Bartiromo continued. “We’ll get the jobs numbers the first Friday of the new month and I suspect you’re going to see a 5 percent unemployment number.”

Restaurants, bars, hotels, airlines, cruise lines, automakers and entertainment venues have been hit hard by the pandemic as cities and states, trying to mitigate the spread of the virus, have ordered the closure of non-essential businesses and told residents to stay at home.

Jobless claims bring the first hard evidence that the novel coronavirus is bringing the nation's economy to a grinding halt. But economists have warned the number will likely continue to rise in the coming weeks.

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Lawmakers are looking to provide relief to laid-off workers with a $2 trillion stimulus package, the largest relief bill in recent memory, that's awaiting approval by the House. In addition to giving adults who earn less than $99,000 annually up to $1,200 cash checks, the bill would expand unemployment benefits.

“Little by little, you see businesses like restaurants, service businesses close down because of these guidelines and that's why you have so many people applying for unemployment benefits,” Bartiromo said, referencing the safety guidelines from the federal government as well as state and local leaders, which include stay-at-home orders.

Referencing the jobless claims, Bartiromo said on Thursday: “The good news here is that it wasn't as bad as we thought and also that we know that this is temporary.”

She added, “It’s all about the coronavirus cases, where are those cases standing now?”

“The governor of New York just said things will probably peak within three weeks,” Bartiromo said. “It’s going to be a tough couple of weeks."

On Thursday, U.S. equity markets clambered higher as investors digested the record jobless claims and waited for the House to vote on the $2 trillion relief package.

“Markets may be rallying now, but there is a very nervous feeling from the investor class,” Bartiromo said on Thursday.

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She added that markets “could go up and down” for several weeks “until we get more clarity on where we are on a vaccine and the antivirals that are coming.”

Fox Business’ Megan Henney and Jonathan Garber contributed to this report.