More than 1.4 million laid-off Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, further evidence of the devastation the coronavirus outbreak has unleashed on the U.S. economy.
The continuing wave of job cuts is occurring against the backdrop of a spike in COVID-19 cases that has led many states to halt plans to reopen businesses and has caused millions of consumers to delay any return to traveling, shopping and other normal economic activities. Those trends have forced many businesses to slash jobs or, at least, delay hiring.
The Labor Department's report Thursday marked the 19th straight week that more than 1 million people have applied for unemployment benefits. Before the coronavirus hit hard in March, the number of Americans seeking unemployment checks had never exceeded 700,000 in any one week, even during the Great Recession.
The number of new applicants was up by 12,000 from the week before, the second straight increase. All told, 17 million people are collecting traditional jobless benefits, a sign that unemployment checks are keeping many families afloat financially at a time of big job losses and agonizing economic uncertainty.
The pain could soon intensify. A supplemental $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits is expiring, and Congress is negotiating whether to extend the aid.