33 Million Have Sought US Unemployment Aid Since Virus Hit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 3.2 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the business shutdowns caused by the viral outbreak deepened the worst U.S. economic catastrophe in decades.

Roughly 33.5 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the seven weeks since the coronavirus began forcing millions of companies to close their doors and slash their workforces.

That is the equivalent of one in five Americans who had been employed back in February when the unemployment rate had reached a 50-year low of just 3.5%.

The Labor Department’s report Thursday suggests that layoffs, while still breathtakingly high, are steadily declining after sharp spikes in late March and early April.

Initial claims for unemployment aid have now fallen for five straight weeks, from a peak of nearly 6.9 million during the week that ended March 28.

The report showed that 22.7 million people are now receiving unemployment aid — a rough measure of job losses since the shutdowns began. That figure lags a week behind the figures for first-time unemployment applications.

And not everyone who applies for jobless aid is approved. The number of laid-off workers receiving aid is now equal to 15.5% of the workforce that’s eligible for unemployment benefits.

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