FILE - Virus Outbreak Arizona

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, center, with Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ, left, and Michael T. McGuire, Adjutant General for Arizona, and Director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs hold a press conference to update Arizona's preparedness for COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 in Phoenix. 

(The Center Square) – Unemployment claims in Arizona for the week ending March 21 jumped 660 percent from the previous week as employers and employees continue to feel the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Initial unemployment claims in Arizona for the week ending March 21 were 29,268, up 25,424 from the 3,844 claims filed the previous week, according to data released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment claims in the U.S. for the week were a record 3.3 million – up 3 million from the previous week. The total represents the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims ever. The previous high was 695,000 in October 1982.

"This large increase in unemployment claims was not unexpected, and results from the recognition by Americans across the country that we have had to temporarily halt certain activities in order to defeat the coronavirus," U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said.

Some compared the massive influx of unemployment applications to a combination of a recession and a natural disaster. 

“This is an immense number of unemployment claims,” said Alexander Bartik, assistant professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “But, we need, for public health reasons, to intentionally shut parts of the economy down for a period of time.”

Bartik said policy decisions by governors and the federal government will be crucial in the coming weeks to both support households and businesses hurting from the slow-down and ensure that workers and employers are able to reconnect once it’s safe to do so.

“Once that freeze can be relaxed, according to public health authorities, if we take the right policy measures we can get the economy back to where it was as much as possible,” he said.

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois and Arizona government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Central Illinois and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.