Jobless rolls continued to swell due to the coronavirus shutdown, with 6.6 million Americans filing first-time unemployment claims in the week ended April 4, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
That brings the total over the past three weeks to more than 16 million.
The most recent number represents a decline of 261,000 from a week ago, which was revised up by 219,000 to nearly 6.9 million.
The ongoing surge in filings for unemployment insurance has been exacerbated by the expansion of those who can file claim. The CARES Act has expanded the group to include the self-employed and independent contractors.
Prior to the social distancing efforts used to combat the coronavirus spread, the jobs market had been strong. In the six-month period prior to a shutdown that has taken offline much of the U.S. economy’s capacity, nonfarm payroll growth had averaged 221,000 a month.
However, March saw a decline of 701,000 that only began to measure how deeply the virus had impacted the employment situation.
Most of that job decline came in restaurants and drinking establishments though health care and social assistance also took a hit. A more representative number of the actual hit to employment came through the Labor Department’s survey of households, which indicated a drop of nearly 3 million from the employment ranks.
A large contributor to that number was the 1.3 million people who dropped out of the labor force as they lost their jobs but were unable to look for work because of the coronavirus-related restrictions. Those numbers helped push up the headline unemployment rate from 3.5% to 4.4% and drove a more encompassing number that includes those not looking for work and the underemployed from 7% to 8.7%, the biggest one-month gain in the history of that measure.
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