Nearly 3 million U.S. workers filed for jobless benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That brings the total number of people applying for unemployment since the erupted in March to 36 million.
An additional 3.5 million people were receiving aid under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance at the end of April, a federal program for self-employed and gig workers, and 2.5 million more workers applied for PUA aid since that time.
"Today's weekly [unemployment] claims numbers show that things have further deteriorated—drastically—since mid-April," Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said.
Most non-essential businesses remain shut, but states have begun to ease restrictions for some retail establishments, despite concerns that it may be too soon to do so without causing new infections.
The number of first-time applications for jobless aid has declined for five straight weeks, suggesting that a smaller number of companies are reducing their payrolls. Yet by historical standards, the number of weekly claims remains enormous, reflecting an economy that is sinking into a severe recession. Prior to this year, the record for weekly unemployment claims stood at 682,000.
"We think layoffs, though they may ease, will continue over coming weeks," Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist with High Frequency Economics, said in a report.
The number of workers collecting jobless benefits reached another record high, 21.8 million, as of April 25.
The big question is how many of these layoffs will be permanent. While most unemployed workersto their jobs within six months, a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that 42% of recent layoffs will become permanent.
With reporting by The Associated Press.