Another 5.2 million Americans file for unemployment as crisis puts 22 million out of work

More than 5.2 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the number of people put out of work by the coronavirus crisis climbed above 22 million, new federal data show.

The staggering numbers from the US Department of Labor indicate 13 percent of the American workforce was sidelined in just a month as the pandemic gutted the national economy. Efforts to stop the virus have forced businesses into closing and laying off workers across the country who have since overwhelmed state unemployment offices to seek benefits.

The latest seasonally adjusted number of initial jobless claims showed the pace of filings slowed from the prior week’s revised total of 6.6 million. It was slightly above economists’ expectations for about 5.1 million claims in the week ending April 11.

Some experts say the number of unemployment could remain high in the coming weeks as states slog through backlogs of applications. Some New Yorkers waited weeks to submit their claims before the state’s Department of Labor changed its unemployment application last week to speed up the process.

“The unemployment rate is heading toward 15 percent in April, and possibly higher later in the quarter unless the torrent of jobless filings starts to subside,” Bloomberg economists Eliza Winger and Carl Riccadonna said in a commentary.

Thursday’s report came on the heels of other signs that the coronavirus crisis has plunged the economy into a deep recession with more than nine in 10 Americans being told to stay at home under local lockdown measures. Retail sales plunged by a record 8.7 percent in March as factory output suffered its largest decline since the end of World War II, the feds revealed Wednesday.

Experts say the labor market faces a long road to recovery even though some companies have put their workers on furloughs, or temporary layoffs. Economists expect US payrolls to recover less than half the jobs they lost to the coronavirus crisis by the end of 2021, according to a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics.

With Post wires

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