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Nearly 2 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week

U.S. jobless claims pass 40 million
U.S. jobless claims exceed 40 million amid pandemic 06:01

Some 1.9 million Americans applied for unemployment aid in the week ending May 30, while another 623,000 applied for a special jobless aid program for the self-employed, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The numbers show that job losses from the coronavirus may be easing as businesses around the country continue to reopen.

Applications for aid have been declining for the last two months, indicating the worst of the coronavirus-related job cuts have likely passed. 

A separate survey from payroll processor ADP released this week also indicated that job losses are slowing. Private businesses lost 2.8 million jobs in May — while that number is still alarming, it is less than a third of the job losses April.

Despite these signs of improvement, unemployment around the U.S. remains at historically high levels. Since mid-March, roughly 44 million workers have applied for jobless aid, although some have since been rehired. Nearly 30 million people were receiving aid through state and federal unemployment programs as of May 16, the most recent data available. That's a drop of about a million from the previous week. 

"The situation might be improving, but only ever so slightly," Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab, said in a statement.

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And while some businesses have reopened, most economists foresee unemployment remaining in double digits through the November elections and into 2021. 

"New protocols related to virus containment will likely continue to restrict activity, and layoffs, though they may continue to moderate, will remain high in the near term," said Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics in a research note.

On Friday, the government is expected to report that the economy lost 8 million jobs in May, on top of 20 million lost in April.

With reporting by The Associated Press.

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