Nearly 40% of low-income workers lost their jobs in March

Almost 39 million file jobless claims since coronavirus began 

More than 2 million more Americans joined the nation’s jobless last week, according to figures released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor. 

The government provided its latest snapshot of the layoffs that have left tens of millions of people unemployed but that have begun to slow as states allow some businesses to reopen and fewer companies slash jobs. 

»COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS

Almost 39 million people have now filed for jobless aid since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces.

An additional 2.2 million people sought aid under a new federal program for self-employed, contractor and gig workers, who are now eligible for jobless aid for the first time. These figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations, so the government doesn’t include them in the overall number of applications

The pace of layoffs has declined for six straight weeks, and some reopened businesses have rehired a portion of their laid-off employees. By historical standards, though, the number of weekly applications remains immense. 

The continuing job cuts reflect an economy that is gripped by the worst downturn since the Great Depression. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the economy is shrinking at a 38% annual rate in the April-June quarter. That would be, by far, the worst quarterly contraction on record.

Nearly half of Americans say that either their incomes have declined or they live with another adult who has lost pay through a job loss or reduced hours, the Census Bureau said in survey data released Wednesday More than one-fifth of Americans said they had little or no confidence in their ability to pay the next month’s rent or mortgage on time, the survey found.  

During April, U.S. employers shed 20 million jobs, eliminating a decade’s worth of job growth in a single month. The unemployment rate reached 14.7%, the highest since the Depression. Millions of other people who were out of work weren’t counted as unemployed because they didn’t look for a new job.  

Since then, 10 million more laid-off workers have applied for jobless benefits. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in an interview Sunday that the unemployment rate could peak in May or June at 20% to 25%.

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