Record unemployment is no surprise — it’s why nation needs relief bill now

News that 3.28 million workers filed for unemployment last week was painful but not remotely surprising: Everyone knew it was coming — that’s why the federal relief bill is so urgent.

A record-setting jump in jobless claims is what you get when you instantly shut down much of the economy. Worse is ahead.

Good-bye to 113 straight months of job growth that boosted US headcounts by 22 million, bringing discouraged workers back into the job market and fueling wage hikes.

Cross your fingers we can get back to that soon. But millions are left wondering if they can make ends meet for the duration of the crisis. And if their jobs will return on the other side.

All of which is why the House can waste no time in passing the $2.2 trillion rescue plan the Senate pushed through Wednesday. It provides $250 billion for unemployment benefits, including expanded eligibility and $600 a week of extra pay.

As critically, the package includes a $500 billion fund the Federal Reserve can leverage to make trillions in loans, plus another $367 billion pot for small-business lending.

Such historic outlays will stave off bankruptcies (and a nationwide debt crisis), keeping businesses and jobs alive. The trick is to keep the economy on life support so it can recover when the pandemic ends.

As Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin put it, “small businesses hopefully will be able to hire back a lot of those people. Last week, they didn’t know if they had protections.” Once the bill passes, they will know.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Speaker Nancy Pelosi vows the House will pass the bill Friday. It’s not a moment too soon.

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