3.2 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus crisis sidelined 33 million workers in less than two months, the feds said Thursday.
That suggests one in five US workers tried to join the nation’s unemployment rolls in the last seven weeks as the pandemic delivered an unprecedented gut punch to the labour force.
But the seasonally adjusted number of initial jobless claims fell for the fifth consecutive week, indicating the layoffs peaked at the end of March, when workers filed 6.8 million claims, according to the US Department of Labor. Last week’s figure was in line with economists’ expectations for 3 million filings.
Thursday’s number came ahead of the feds’ highly anticipated employment report for April, which is expected to show the highest US unemployment rate since World War II. Some experts expect it to hit 15 percent.
Payroll firm ADP offered a glimpse at the damage on Wednesday when it said the private sector lost 20.2 million jobs last month, more than double the total for the Great Recession. But neither the company’s report nor the federal survey will show the full impact of the crisis because they only cover the first half of the month.
Overwhelmed states have scrambled to process a massive flood of unemployment claims as lockdowns meant to curb the coronavirus forced businesses to close and lay off or furlough their workers.
New York — where workers have reported waiting weeks to get unemployment checks — has paid more than $5.8 billion in benefits to 1.5 million people since the crisis began, the state Labor Department said Wednesday.