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.
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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.