Roughly 2.1 million people applied for US unemployment benefits last week, a sign that companies are still slashing jobs in the face of a deep recession even as more businesses reopen and rehire some laid-off employees. About 41 million people have now applied for aid since the virus outbreak intensified in March, though not all of them are still unemployed. The Labor Department's report Thursday includes a count of all the people now receiving unemployment aid: 21 million, which is a rough measure of the number of unemployed Americans, per the AP. The national jobless rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression. Many economists expect that figure will approach 20% in May. The economy, meanwhile, is thought to be shrinking in the April-June quarter at an annual rate approaching 40%, which would be, by far, the worst quarterly contraction on record.
By historical standards, the number of weekly unemployment applications remains enormous, though first-time applications for unemployment aid have now fallen for eight straight weeks. The pace of layoffs has also declined for seven straight weeks, a sign that the cratering of the job market may have bottomed out. States are gradually restarting their economies by letting some businesses—from gyms, retail shops, and restaurants to hair and nail salons—reopen with some restrictions. As some employers, including automakers, have recalled a portion of their laid-off workers, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has fallen. Analysts are monitoring incoming economic data to gauge how consumers are responding as reopenings commence. Jobs won't return in any significant way as long as Americans remain slow to resume spending at their previous levels.
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