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Wearing masks and gloves, unemployed Americans join long lines to file for benefits

A line of jobless Americans snaked around the Arkansas Workforce Center to file for unemployment benefits on Monday (April 6) after many of the country’s businesses shut down in an attempt to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Ten million people filed for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks of March and millions more are expected to submit claims this week or have submitted them last week.

Wearing a face mask and gloves, Shelly Oliver said she had never filed for unemployment before and believed her job was secure at a printing press that has survived over 120 years.

She said she tried to do as much as she could online, but the system appeared to have a logjam and she decided to visit the office in person to see if she could resolve the issue

“When you go and try to apply, you can’t get through. So that’s why I’m standing down here in line, to go see them face to face,” she said.

With economists expecting payrolls to sink by at least a record 20 million in April and the jobless rate to top 10%, the future is uncertain, especially for older workers like 62-year old Regina Weaver.

“The 27th of April was my last day. I started doing the process but I’m 62. I don’t know a lot about the computer so I done the best I could and messed it up,” she said. “Yesterday was Sunday and I was supposed to call in so I called in, put my number in, it’s invalid. So I’m lost in the system somewhere.”

With at least 90% of Americans now under some form of a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, economists say data collection will be severely constrained as they work to get a clearer picture of the severity of the recession caused by the virus.

(Production: Nick Oxford, Arlene Eiras)

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