More than 2.9 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus crisis put more than 36 million people out of work in two months, according to new data.
That means the pandemic has sidelined roughly 23 percent of the American labor force as it put the US economy into a deep freeze.
But the seasonally adjusted number of seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims has dropped for six straight weeks, indicating the biggest wave of layoffs has passed as some states start to emerge from lockdowns meant to control the virus. Economists were expecting the US Department of Labor to report 2.5 million claims last week.
The total also dropped below 3 million for the first time since the virus started to swell the nation’s unemployment rolls. The feds recorded 282,000 filings in the week ending March 14 before the number surged to 3.3 million the following week.
The weekly reports have provided one of the most timely signals of how the coronavirus crisis has devastated the American economy, which shed 20.5 million jobs in April as the pandemic forced businesses to close nationwide.
The surge in jobless claims has led to backlogs in overwhelmed states such as New York, which has paid out $7.4 billion in unemployment benefits since the pandemic started. That’s three and a half times the total benefits paid last year, state officials said Wednesday.
WIth Post wires
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