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41 Million Have Lost Jobs Since Coronavirus Hit, but Layoffs Slow

More than 13 percent of older workers are unemployed

CANOGA PARK, CA - MAY 14: Maria Mora came to find information about her claim but found the California State Employment Development Department was closed due to coronavirus concerns on Thursday, May 14, 2020 in Canoga Park, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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Roughly 2.1 million people applied for U.S. 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.

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About 41 million people 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. That is a rough measure of the number of currently unemployed Americans.

The national jobless rate was 14.7 percent in April, the highest since the Great Depression, and many economists expect it will near 20 percent in May. The April unemployment rate for workers age 55 and older was 13.6 percent.

States are restarting their economies gradually by letting certain businesses — from gyms, retail shops and restaurants to hair and nail salons — reopen with some restrictions. As some of these employers, including automakers, have recalled a portion of their laid-off employees, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has fallen.

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First-time applications for unemployment aid, though still high by historical standards, have now fallen for eight straight weeks. In addition to those who applied last week, an additional 1.2 million applied under a new program for self-employed and gig workers, who are eligible for jobless aid for the first time.

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