Another 3.2 million Americans file for unemployment as coronavirus continues to slam US economy

A now hiring sign is seen in front of a Home Depot store in Des Moines, Iowa.
A now hiring sign is seen in front of a Home Depot store in Des Moines, Iowa.(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The coronavirus crisis has forced another 3.2 million Americans to file for jobless aid, bringing the total number to 33.5 million in the seven weeks since the pandemic forced thousands of companies to close and layoff huge amounts of staff.

The latest figure released by the Labor Department on Thursday means that one in five Americans who were employed in February, when the unemployment rate was at a 50-year low, have lost their income. Despite the staggering number, it’s down from the 3.9 million initial claims filed in the week ending April 25 and the all-time high of 6.86 million applications in late March.

It is also the fifth straight week numbers have dropped, but economists have warned the April jobs report — which is slated to be released on Friday — could be one of the worst the American workforce has ever seen.

The unemployment rate may climb as high as 15 to 20%, the highest since rates peaked at 25% during the Great Depression.

The official figures for jobless claims may also be under-counting layoffs. Surveys by academic economists and think tanks suggest that as many as 12 million workers who were laid off by mid-April did not file for unemployment benefits for range of reasons including becoming overwhelmed by the system.

No industry has been spared as coronavirus continues its deadly spread across the United States and the rest of the world. Small businesses like local shops and major companies like AirBnB and MGM have announced mass layoffs and furloughs.

According to payroll processor ADP, about half the total jobs in the hotel and restaurant industry, around 8.6 million, were wiped out in April. In retail and shipping, another 3.4 million jobs were lost.

Economists are projecting that the gross domestic product – which is the broadest gauge of economic growth – is contracting in the current April-June quarter by a massive 40%.

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