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Coronavirus: Weekly jobless claims hit 5.2 million

A man in front of a state Labor Department office

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Another 5.2 million Americans registered for unemployment benefits last week as businesses remain shut amid the coronavirus lockdown.

The new Department of Labor filings bring the number of jobless claims over the last four weeks to more than 20 million.

That amounts to roughly as many jobs as employers had added over the previous decade.

The economic crisis comes as the number of US virus cases exceeds 629,000.

The surging joblessness is a stark reversal for the world’s biggest economy where the unemployment rate had been hovering around 3.5%. Economists now expect that rate to have hit double digits.

While the 5.2 million claims in the week ended 11 April was down from 6.6 million the previous week, those numbers still eclipse prior records and economists warn that elevated numbers will linger.

“Records are being broken left and right with respect to the depth and breadth of the current downturn,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “With no immediate end in sight to efforts aimed at mitigating the virus’ spread and impact, it is impossible to see a near-term upturn in employment prospects.”

Last month, retail sales plunged by a record 8.7%, while manufacturing output dropped by the most in more than 74 years.

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