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Nearly 43 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic

Posted June 4, 2020 8:34 a.m. EDT

— Millions of Americans again filed for unemployment benefits last week, as the coronavirus recession drags on.

Another 1.9 million workers filed for initial unemployment aid last week, according to the US Department of Labor. More than a quarter of the labor force -- 42.6 million people -- has now claimed benefits since the pandemic began ravaging the US labor market.

For 11 weeks in a row, jobless claims have been in the millions. Before the pandemic, the labor department had never recorded a single week of jobless claims over a million.

Claims again fell from the previous week, a trend that has held for the past ten weeks, ever since first-time claims peaked at 6.9 million in the last week of March.

Continuing claims, which count people who have filed benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 21.5 million. This number unexpectedly increased slightly from the week prior.

That's disappointing sign. Economists began shifting their focus from initial claims to continuing claims in May, as the number of first-time filers continued to drop. Continuing claims declined in the previous week, suggsting more people are returning to work as the economy is reopening. But, as last week's increase proves, the progress is painfully slow. And moving faster to reopen could increase the threat of spreading Covid-19.

America's unemployment rate is expected to have reached nearly 20% in March, with 28.5 million jobs eliminated over the past two months. That's an unemployment rate not recorded since the Great Depression, and the highest monthly level since the data collection began in 1948.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly jobs report is due on Friday at 8:30 am ET.

This is a developing story. It will be updated

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