In this March 17, 2020 file photo, people wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas. (Photo: AP)
Business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic caused 6.6 million US workers to apply for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.
That shocking number of first-time claims for jobless benefits in the week ending April 4 was a slight decrease from the previous week's count of 6.9 million, which was revised up by 219,000 from the original tally, according to the report.
With the latest weekly data, nearly 17 million workers have lost their jobs since mid-March, a stunning sign of the harm inflicted by the outbreak on the US economy, where unemployment was previously near a record low. Now economists warn the jobless rate will surge into double digits in April.
The weekly claims number was above the consensus forecast, and came as Congress eyes injecting more money into a $350 billion program to give loans to small businesses to encourage them not to lay off employees, which Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics warned was nonetheless set to continue.
"With large portions of the economy remaining closed... these levels will likely remain high as companies continue to reduce or furlough their workforce," she wrote in an analysis.
The US Federal Reserve on Thursday launched $2.3 trillion of new financing facilities to support the economy, particularly businesses, households and state and local governments facing a cash crunch.