The bleak number keeps growing: Nearly 3 million laid-off workers applied for US unemployment benefits last week, per the AP. That means roughly 36 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the two months since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said Thursday. One glimmer of hope: The number of first-time applications has now declined for six straight weeks, suggesting that a dwindling number of companies are reducing their payrolls. By historical standards, though, the latest tally shows that the number of weekly jobless claims remains enormous, reflecting an economy that is sinking into a severe downturn. Last week's pace of new applications for aid is still four times the record high that prevailed before the coronavirus struck hard in March.
Jobless workers in some states are still reporting difficulty applying for or receiving benefits. These include freelance, gig, and self-employed workers, who became newly eligible for jobless aid this year. States that are now easing lockdowns are doing so in varied ways. Ohio has permitted warehouses, most offices, factories, and construction companies to reopen, but restaurants and bars remain closed for indoor sit-down service. A handful of states have gone further, including Georgia, which has opened barber shops, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, and gyms. South Carolina has reopened beach hotels, and Texas has reopened shopping malls. Data from private firms suggest that some previously laid-off workers have started to return to small businesses in those states. (The national unemployment rate is at 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression.)