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Another 1.5 million filed for unemployment aid last week, but job losses are slowing

Another 1.5 million file for unemployment

More than 2 million Americans filed for jobless aid in the latest week, the Labor Department said Thursday, showing that the effects of coronavirus closures linger even as the labor market bounces back.

Of that number, some 1.5 million filed for state unemployment insurance benefits, while another 700,000 requested Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new federal program for self-employed and gig workers.

The number of workers getting aid remains at historic levels. Nearly 21 million people are receiving weekly unemployment benefits, while 9.7 million self-employed workers are receiving assistance. 

"Today's unemployment report confirms two critical facts: That the unemployment crisis is slowly improving, but that benefits will continue to play an essential role in the recovery for months to come," Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said in a note.

The pace of job cuts has steadily declined in the nearly three months since the coronavirus struck hard, forcing business closures and sending the economy into recession. While the number of weekly applications remains high, the dwindling pace of claims, since a peak of 6.9 million in the last week of March, suggests the job market misery has bottomed out.

"The sudden-stop nature of this recession meant that employment dropped suddenly due to layoffs and discharges. Now, a variety of data sources indicate the U.S. labor market has hit a bottom, at least for the immediate future," Nick Bunker, director of research at the Indeed Hiring Lab, said in a report.

On Friday, the government startled even economic experts by reporting that the economy gained 2.5 million jobs in May and that the unemployment rate fell to 13.3% from April's 14.7%. Reopened businesses appeared to have recalled some laid-off workers faster than predicted.

With reporting by the Associated Press.

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