Another 3.8 million more Americans filed unemployment claims last week, according to new figures released Thursday morning by the U.S. Labor Department.
More than 30 million Americans have filed unemployment claims over the last two months, as the global coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the U.S. and and worldwide economy.
The surge in layoffs has pushed the unemployment rate above 15% to the highest levels since the Great Depression, some economists estimate.
Thursday’s numbers indicate more than one in six American workers have lost their jobs in this latest rounds of layoffs.
There was also bleak new data in Europe, where more than 130,000 people with the virus have died so far.
Figures from the 19 countries that use the euro showed that the European economy shrank a record 3.8% in the first quarter as lockdowns turned cities into ghost towns and plunged nations into recession. The drop was the biggest since eurozone statistics began in 1995.
France’s economy shrank an eye-popping 5.8%, the biggest quarterly drop since 1949. In Spain, the contraction was 5.2%. Germany is projecting that its economy, the eurozone’s biggest, will shrink 6.3% this year.
At the same time, big job-protection programs are temporarily keeping millions of Europeans on payrolls, sparing them the record-setting flood of layoffs that is battering the U.S.
In the United States, economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20% — a figure not seen since the Depression, when the rate peaked at 25%.
The new jobs report came one day after the Commerce Department published data showing the U.S. economy is shrinking. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department said the nation's Gross Domestic Product declined by 4.8% in the last quarter, creating the worst economic downturn since 2008.
Across nearly every industry, nonessential businesses have closed, and workers have been sent home with no clear idea of when or whether they might be recalled. An economic recovery may be months or years off, though governors in a few states have begun allowing some businesses to reopen under certain restrictions.
For April, economists say the unemployment rate could go as high as 20%. That would be the highest rate since the Great Depression, when it reached 25%.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced it is maintaining interest rates at near-zero and is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into lending to cities, towns, states and banks.
With some signs that the viral outbreak may have plateaued at least in certain areas of the country, a few governors have taken tentative steps to begin reopening their economies.
But surveys show that a large majority of Americans remain wary of returning to shopping, traveling and other normal economic activity. That suggests that many industries will struggle with diminished revenue for weeks or months to come and might be unable to rehire laid-off workers.
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