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More than 2.98 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday, as the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus outbreak continued to deepen the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression.
The new report, which covers the week ending May 9, pushes the two-month total of losses since states adopted strict stay-at-home measures to more than 36 million. All of the jobs created during the past decade have been wiped out; unemployment at this scale hasn’t been recorded since the Great Depression.
Economists surveyed by Refinitiv had forecast 2.5 million.
Although the number is still grim — it's the eighth straight week that layoffs were counted in the millions — it's the lowest amount of jobless claims since the week ended March 15. Last week’s count was revised up by 7,000 to 3.176 million.
The four-week moving average was 19.8 million, up 2.7 million from the previous week.
Continuing claims, which tracks the number of out-of-work Americans receiving jobless benefits, rose by 456,000 to 22.83 million, indicating that a broad swath of unemployed workers are still not being brought back to work.
The number comes on the heels of the April jobs report, which revealed that in the span of one month, more than 20 million people found themselves out of work, pushing the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent — the highest since record-keeping began in 1948.
It's possible the April jobs report, which relied on surveys conducted in the early weeks of the month, did not capture the full extent of the damage inflicted by the virus outbreak. Trump administration officials have said that the jobless rate could surpass 20 percent.
Congress has passed four massive economic-relief packages totaling nearly $3 trillion, an unprecedented amount, to blunt the virus outbreak's toll on American workers and businesses.
But even as some states begin easing stay-at-home guidance, economists have warned that the labor market may be slow to return to pre-crisis levels, when unemployment fell to a half-century low and suggested that additional stimulus is needed to aid the recovery.
“Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in a virtual speech on Wednesday. “This tradeoff is one for our elected representatives, who wield powers of taxation and spending.”