Another 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total over seven weeks to 33.5 million—or one in five Americans who were employed as of February, per the AP. Economists had predicted 3 million claims, Reuters reports. The week ending May 2 was the fifth in a row that applications dropped, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. Some 3.8 million applications were filled in the prior week ending April 25. A record 6.867 million applications came in the week ending March 28.
Some are headed back to work. But "even with the economy slowly starting to reopen, the number of unemployed should continue to rise sharply as governments, as well as businesses that have tried but not succeeded at holding the line, are now laying off workers," economist Joel Naroff tells Reuters. Due out Friday, the April jobs report won't cover the last two weeks of the month. Still, the unemployment rate is expected to hit 16%, with 21 million lost jobs. That "would mean that nearly all the job growth in the 11 years since the Great Recession ended has vanished in a single month," per the AP. (Read more unemployment stories.)