PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — More than 850,000 Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks, but social researchers say this is just the beginning.

The coronavirus has cut a devastating swath through the state’s economy, the likes of which no one has ever seen.

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Main street business districts like Walnut Street in Shadyside have been shuttered as unemployment looms.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

More than 850,000 Pa. residents have filed for unemployment, but social researchers say this is just the tip of the iceberg as small businesses struggle to survive the crisis.

On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf extended the stay-at-home order for 26 counties until April 30, and is closing all schools and non-life-sustaining businesses indefinitely.

The order has impacted more than five million workers in the state.

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While many are working from home or working from partially-closed businesses like takeout restaurants, Pitt Researcher Chris Briem says it’s not clear that these businesses can sustain a long term shutdown.

“The longer this lasts, the worse the economic impact will be,” Briem said. “Especially for small and mid-sized businesses difficult for small businesses. They won’t be able to keep up their workforce in the future.”

“I think businesses are doing the best by their employees, trying to keep them on the payroll, for now. … But if this lasts longer, few businesses will be able to sustain those payrolls,” Briem said.

Businesses throughout the state and country will remain closed for the month of April.

The economic picture will get uglier if it extends beyond that.

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