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38.6 Million Have Filed For Unemployment Since March

The United States is still losing jobs at an alarming pace two months after the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Another 2.4 million people filed claims for unemployment last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That's down 249,000 — or 9% — from the previous week, but still painfully high by historical standards.

In the past nine weeks, jobless claims have totaled 38.6 million. That's roughly one out of every four people who were working in February, before the pandemic hit.

The official unemployment rate was 14.7% in April — the highest since the tail end of the Great Depression. Millions of additional people have joined the ranks of the unemployed since then.

"The jobs numbers will be worse before they get better," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers this week.

AFederal Reserve survey found 20% of people who were working in February had been furloughed or laid off in March or early April. The job cuts were concentrated among lower-wage workers. In households making less than $40,000, nearly 40% said they were out of work.

As high as it is, unemployment doesn't capture the full extent of the pandemic's economic fallout. A new survey from the Census Bureau shows many Americans who are still working have lost hours or seen their wages cut. Nationwide, 47% of all households say their income has declined as a result of the coronavirus. Losses were even higher in tourist-dependent states such as Nevada and Hawaii.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.