Pandemic Forces Another Nearly 3 Million Workers Into Unemployment

Nearly three million workers in the United States applied for unemployment benefits last week as coronavirus-induced job losses continued to mount.

According to the Labor Department, seasonally adjusted jobless claims for the week ended May 9 hit 2.98 million. That brings the two-month count of initial claims to more than 36 million.

While the weekly figures have lowered since the all-time high of 6.8 million applications in late March, the number of Americans seeking aid still remains at historically high levels. Before COVID-19 swept the country two months ago, claims hovered at just over 200,000 each week.

In the most recent monthly jobs report released last week, the government reported a record loss of 20.5 million jobs, while the unemployment rate spiked to 14.7% — making April the worst month for the U.S. labor force since record-keeping began at the start of the Second World War.

The spread of the coronavirus — which has killed 84,100 people and sickened more than 1.39 million in the country — led scores of stores and offices to temporarily close their doors for weeks. Many nonessential employers were forced to lay off or furlough their workers.

In retail alone, employment plunged by 2.1 million last month, with job losses of 740,000 at clothing and clothing accessories stores; a drop of 264,000 jobs at miscellaneous stores; and a 161,000 decline at department stores. (Warehouse clubs and supercenters, on the other hand, were a bright spot, gaining 93,000 jobs.)

Over the course of a little more than a month, the pandemic managed to wipe out all job gains since the Great Recession and brought to a halt the U.S.’s decade-long economic expansion. However, an increasing number of states — including Colorado, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee — have begun reopening shops, restaurants and other businesses, which could soon push some workers off of unemployment.

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