Coronavirus puts 4.4 million more out of work, bringing crisis total to 26 million

The number of Americans put out of work by the coronavirus crisis grew to 26.4 million last week as another 4.4 million people applied for unemployment benefits, new federal data show.

That suggests the pandemic has more than wiped out the 22.1 million jobs the US economy had added since October 2010, when the nation started a streak of job growth that came to a screeching halt last month.

The workers who have filed initial jobless claims in the last five weeks account for about 16 percent of the American workforce. If they formed their own state, it would be the nation’s third-largest by population with more people than New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania combined.

But Thursday’s report from the US Department of Labor showed the seasonally adjusted number of filings dropping for the third straight week. That indicates the coronavirus-fueled layoffs peaked in the last week of March, when more than 6.8 million people applied for benefits.

“The latest data will be scrutinized for clues as to whether filings reached a critical turning point or if distortions were at play,” Bloomberg economists Eliza Winger and Carl Riccadonna said in a commentary.

Economists expected 4.2 million jobless claims last week as states continued to work through massive piles of applications. New York’s state Labor Department said this week that it had reduced its backlog of application phone calls from 275,000 to roughly 4,300. But some New Yorkers have said they’re still waiting for benefits checks after filing claims weeks ago.

The feds’ weekly jobless claims report has become a closely watched indicator of how deeply the coronavirus crisis has gutted the US economy. Most of the country is living under lockdown measures meant to stem the spread of the virus, which have forced many businesses to close and cut workers.

The most recent report coincided with the government’s monthly employment survey, which will offer a broader view of the job losses when it’s released next month. Experts expect it to show the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 15 percent or higher from 4.4 percent in March.

With Post wires

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