closed J. Crew store

Even as some parts of the country started to tentatively come back from the coronavirus shutdown, the unemployment line grew longer

Another 3.2 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week — making for a seven-week total of 33.5 million, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday.

The government will offer another read on employment on Friday with the closely watched monthly numbers for April.

Economists are not sure just how that unprecedented surge in joblessness will play out, but much depends on just what the consumer and job markets look like as the economy restarts. While many are growing tired of quarantine and eager to return to normal, it is also clear that the reopening will be piecemeal at best and also brings the risk of a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

Even a couple weeks of the shutdown in late March was enough to throw the U.S. economy into reverse for the first quarter, when GDP shrunk by 4.8 percent. The second quarter will show a much deeper decline. 

Retailers have both fed into the problem of joblessness by furloughing their workforces and are threatened by it given how important the strength of the job market is to consumer spending. 

While many of the furloughs across the economy were painted as temporary actions to help keep companies afloat, as the crisis wears there are more questions about just how many of these jobs will come back. 

Some companies, including J. Crew Group, have gone bankrupt and face potentially steep cuts as they reorganize. 

And even strong retailers that have been sitting with their stores idle have decided some will stay closed. This week, Nordstrom said 16 percent of its stores — or 15 percent of the department store’s base — would be closed for good.