KEY POINTS

  • Three times as many Americans are drastically altering their lives this week compared to last week
  • Only one-third are still going to their usual workplace
  • Concerns mount over soaring unemployment which could hit 3 million

As the novel coronavirus spreads in the United States, more employers and Americans are taking the crisis seriously. A new poll finds that 72 percent of Americans have canceled or pushed back their plans this week due to the pandemic – almost three times as many as last week's.

These numbers come from an ABC News/Ipsos survey which found this came with a huge change in the number of Americans who are going to their place of work as usual, dropping from 55 percent last week to just 36 percent this week. However, the number of people working from home, while it has grown from 3 percent to 17 percent, hasn’t kept pace with those not going to work.

Unfortunately, this means millions of Americans are either on leave or have already lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus. Unemployment data released Thursday appeared to reflect this, as jobless claims jumped from 70,000 to 281,000. Some economists believe this is only the tip of the iceberg, though.

Goldman Sachs economist David Choi said that unemployment filings are estimated to soon soar to 2.25 million, while other economists believe that number could reach 3 million. These figures come alongside a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week, when he suggested that as many as one-in-five Americans could soon be out of work if Congress failed to pass the White House’s coronavirus stimulus bill.

Although Mnuchin soon walked that projection back, clarifying that he did not believe that would become the case, it’s clear the Trump administration is deeply concerned about the economic blow Americans are enduring.

This week it was revealed that the White House had contacted state officials to ask them to keep quiet on unemployment, according to The New York Times. In an email sent from the Labor Department, states were asked to “not provide numeric values to the public” before the national figures were released Thursday. This, undoubtedly, was aimed at preventing further panic on Wall Street, where markets have been suffering.

This week, Mnuchin announced that a large portion of the proposed coronavirus stimulus would involve setting aside billions to send to struggling Americans. It remains unclear how much will be disbursed and who will qualify for the aid, though adults are likely to expect at least one payment of $1,000 in the near future.

Empty shelves after shoppers spooked by the coronavirus outbreak stock up on pasta to help get them through the crisis Empty shelves after shoppers spooked by the coronavirus outbreak stock up on pasta to help get them through the crisis Photo: AFP / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK