Around 3 million more workers filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, down slightly from 3.8 million the previous week.
More than 33 million Americans have now filed for initial jobless claims since the coronavirus pandemic ripped through the economy, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor.
Continuing claims, or the number of people receiving ongoing benefits, is now at more than 22 million, far surpassing the recessionary peak of 6.6 million.
Yet even as the economy begins to slowly fire up again state by state, economists expect unemployment levels to remain at record highs — and to extend across a broader swath of industries. Not every business that closed during social distancing lockdowns will survive, and many larger corporations are reassessing their headcount.
Wednesday's private sector report from ADP, which showed 20.2 million workers lost their job last month, also revealed that businesses with more than 500 employees laid off 9 million workers. Companies with under 50 workers shed 6 million workers.
"The outlook for the labor market remains frightening," said Nick Bunker, Indeed's director of economic research. "That’s one in five jobs likely gone in seven weeks. Not only does the pace of layoffs remain at unprecedented levels, but hiring intentions remain depressed. On Indeed, job postings were 39 percent below last year’s trend as of May 1."
Thursday's jobless claims number comes ahead of the closely watched monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which will be released Friday morning.
Economists expect Friday's BLS data to show that the national unemployment rate has soared to 16 percent, after months at a half-century low.
In an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "TODAY" show Thursday morning, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari, said Friday's official unemployment rate "will probably be something like 16 or 17 percent — but it will understate how bad the damage has been. I think the real number is probably around 23 or 24 percent. It's devastating."