New layoffs as states reopen a troubling sign for coronavirus recovery, experts say

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Experts are worried that even as states gradually reopen their economies and let people go back to work, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits in the two months since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. has swelled to nearly 39 million, the government reported Thursday.

Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont, said the latest layoffs may be particularly worrisome because they are happening even as states reopen. That could mean many companies see little hope of a substantial economic recovery any time soon and still feel a need to cut jobs.

“There’s a high probability that those layoffs could persist for longer than those that were a function of [businesses] just being closed,” Stanley said.

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The latest figures do not mean 38.6 million people are out of work. Some have been called back, and others have landed new jobs. But the vast majority are still unemployed.

An additional 1.2 million people applied for unemployment last week under a federal program that makes self-employed, contractor and gig workers eligible for the first time. But those figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations, so the government doesn’t include them in the overall number of applications.

“While the steady decline in claims is good news, the labor market is still in terrible shape,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial.

Todd Gareiss, a marketing expert, uses the same strategies and techniques used by leading advertising and PR firms for branding job-seekers in the new market: “Stop focusing on the bad news. Focus on the future, focus on becoming a better candidate, focus on increasing your skill set, focus on becoming more marketable. Your mindset matters more than you think in the job search; stay positive, work the problem, move forward, even just a little bit, every day; improvise, adapt and overcome, do not take no for an answer, look under every stone, run around the gatekeeper, work harder and search smarter than your competition, leverage your network and know that your tenacity and persistence will make a difference.”

He runs CareerClout.com and told Fox News: “We are seeing people landing interviews and getting job offers. There are jobs out there but we are seeing new trends in resume architecture. These evolved formats enable increased readability and comprehension thus delivering better results. For instance a CareerClout.com resume features stronger headlining, eye-catching hero statements, and tighter and smaller text blocks with improved section headings for optimal readability, higher response rates and significantly strengthened job search effectiveness. The resulting gain in reader comprehension within the 10-second window of opportunity, delivers increased response rates, all leading to the increased likelihood of getting the job you want and the compensation you deserve.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said over the weekend that the U.S. unemployment rate could peak in May or June at 20 percent to 25 percent — a level unseen since the depths of the Great Depression.

As of April, unemployment stood at 14.7 percent, a figure also unmatched since the 1930s. And the true rate was even higher, because millions of Americans weren’t officially counted as unemployed since they weren’t looking for a new job, presumably because nearly everything was shut down anyway.

More than 2.4 million people filed for jobless aid last week in the latest wave of layoffs from the outbreak that has triggered nationwide business shutdowns and brought the economy to its knees, the Labor Department said.

That brings the running total to a staggering 38.6 million, a job-market collapse unprecedented in its speed.

The number of weekly applications has slowed for seven straight weeks. Yet the figures remain breathtakingly high — 10 times higher than normal before the crisis struck.

The continuing rise shows that even though all states have begun reopening over the past three weeks, the job market has yet to snap back, and the outbreak is still doing damage to businesses and destroying livelihoods.

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Todd Siddons is an entrepreneur working remotely who recently moved to Arizona.

He has taken his life by the bootstraps to take himself out of the traditional workforce.

“I think what we're seeing right now is that people are starting to understand the world isn't simply going to go back to the way it was -- at least not for a long, long time. For many businesses, they can't simply pick up where they left off two or three months ago and I think we're going to see a large number of companies continue to struggle even as the economy reopens because for so many of them, the damage has been done,” he told Fox News.

His ideology reflects many young Americans whose lives had to be transformed in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse.

“For workers, I think many of them are realizing that the path they were taught -- go to college, get a job, and be a good employee for 40 years -- isn't exactly the safe path they thought it was. Now, more than ever, we're seeing the importance of having a Plan B: a real estate business, a network marketing business, online coaching, whatever. My team has seen a huge uptick in displaced workers seeking us out and wanting to build their side income with us and I think we're going to see more and more of that as this continues. The only risk to building online is you might annoy a few of your Facebook friends but you're probably doing that anyway. Might as well get paid for it,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.