Another 91,000 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits in Missouri last week as parts of the economy remained shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic.
That brings the total for the past three weeks to nearly 240,000 claims, roughly 60,000 more than the state received in all of 2019.
The claims stand in stark contrast to the 3,976 filed in the week that ended March 14, and have effectively swamped Department of Labor's unemployment office with tens of thousands of calls for help each week.
The off-the-charts numbers are effectively par for the course with broad swaths of the economy shut down by the novel coronavirus, especially in hospitality and retail sectors that have employed millions across the country but rely on in-person service.
Congress's decision to boost unemployment benefits by $600 per week and extend them to self-employed and contract workers usually ineligible are likely also playing a part in the high numbers.
Nationally, another 6.6 million people filed for benefits last week, a slight decline from roughly 6.86 million the week before, the highest one-week total on record.
The record before the crisis was 695,000 weekly applications in October 1982 and first eclipsed by the 3.3 million claims in the week that ended March 21.
Those numbers mean around 16.7 million have sought benefits in past three weeks, more than double the 8.8 million who had lost jobs at the worst point in the Great Recession.
And it remains unclear where it will end.
With no vaccine or reliable treatment for the disease and a lack of widespread testing to tell who may be exposed to the virus, stay-at-home orders affecting 95 percent of the country's population are widely seen as the best chance to slow the spread.
They also mean keeping "non-essential" businesses such as restaurants, retailers and movie theaters shuttered or scaled back, and lean times for the travel industry, though.
The speed at which the measures curtail the outbreak will effectively determine the speed of the recovery.
"There’s no way to mitigate or lessen that economic carnage until we get this contagion under control," said Steve Mullins, an economics professor at Drury University.
Michelle Meyer, chief U.S. economist of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told USA TODAY that national claims will continue to hover in the millions over the next several weeks and could hit new records as more businesses close due to lack of cash or customers.
Those bolstered unemployment numbers could make them feel better about laying off workers knowing they'll be covered, too.
Meyer is forecasting a total of 15 million to 20 million job losses by May, pushing unemployment to 15% from the current 4.4%. Oxford Economics projects 26 million layoffs and a 16% jobless rate over the next two months.
Miguel Faria-e-Castro, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, wrote in a recent blog post that the unemployment rate could be 32 percent by the end of June after some "back-of-the-envelope" math.
But he also wrote that how long people stay unemployed matters more than the unemployment rate itself, "especially if the recovery is quick (and so duration is short)."
A recent analysis by the Brookings Institution found that in Springfield alone, 34,195 jobs, or 16.7 percent of the metro area's total, are in five industries at high risk of taking a hit.
Those industries include hospitality and transportation as well as travel arrangements, which could include workers at businesses like Expedia, a company employing hundreds in the area.
Joplin leads the state with 17.4 percent of its jobs in those "high-risk" industries, and in tourism and entertainment hubs like Maui, Atlantic City and Las Vegas, those percentages are in the 30s and 40s.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.