Another 101,000 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits in Missouri last week as the coronavirus pandemic continued to plague much of the economy.


That brings the total for the past four weeks to roughly 340,000, or close to twice the number of claims the state labor department received in all of 2019.


The news was no better at the national level, where data showed 5.2 million people filing for unemployment last week, bringing that four-week total to 22 million.


For comparison, 8.8 million had lost jobs at the worst point in the Great Recession, and the economy had added 21.5 million jobs since then.


The latest round of numbers is yet another indication the economy may take an historic hit this year.


Economists from Northwestern, Stanford, the University of Chicago and Boston University released a working paper Monday predicting the economy’s 2020 output will be 11% less than it was last year, the biggest year-over-year loss since 1946.


It remains unclear when the pain 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, officials have turned to stay-at-home orders — affecting 95% of the country's population — to slow the spread.


That means keeping "non-essential" businesses such as restaurants, retailers and movie theaters shuttered or scaled back, and has contributed to lean times for the travel industry.


With infection rates appearing to slow, state and national leaders are itching to "reopen" the economy, but plenty of work remains.


Reopening industries too early could lead to a second, self-inflicted spike in infections, forcing a new round of stay-at-home mandates.


Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday that Missouri will need to reach the capacity to conduct 40,000 to 50,000 tests per week to have the "data and confidence to fully reopen Missouri."


Data published daily by the state health department indicates Missouri performed roughly 12,000 tests in the past seven days.


And even if some businesses can get back to a semblance of normalcy, it’s not clear how quickly consumers will join them.


A survey conducted by researchers at Seton Hall University last week indicated 72% of Americans would not attend sports contests if leagues resumed play before a vaccine is available.


The latest reports indicate a vaccine is at least a year away.


The same may go for other sectors hard-hit by the crisis.


Recent polling by the Sports and Leisure Research Group, Engagious and ROKK Solutions indicated only a third of Americans would see a movie in a theater or take a commercial flight without any assurances or additional protections.


And while assurances from medical professionals and a vaccine would help, current confidence is at striking lows.


The percentage of people planning to spend just as much money on travel in the next year as they did the previous year is 44% less than it was after 9/11.


"The trajectory of the virus itself will ultimately determine how long the economy will remain shuttered," analysts at Deutsche Bank Research said in a note.


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 ahuguelet@news-leader.com.


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