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US weekly unemployment hits 4.4 million, bringing coronavirus lockdown total to more than 26 million

US weekly unemployment hits 4.4 million, bringing coronavirus lockdown total to more than 26 million
The US Labor Department said on Thursday that unemployment has continued to rise at a historically unprecedented pace. Another 4.4 million applications filed last week has brought the total in the past five weeks to 26.4 million.

The new claims figure, for the week ending April 18, shows a decline of 810,000 applications from the previous week’s 5.2 million. However, the total number for the five-week period is greater than all the 23.3 million jobs created in the US since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

While economists expect the figure to steadily decline going forward, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that his state had 1,000 staff "just to take the incoming unemployment calls. That's how high the volume is. And they still can't keep up."

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In Florida, only 14.2 percent of the more than 668,000 claims filed since March 15 have been paid. In Ohio, claimants now have to file on a specific day of the week, depending on the first letter of their last name. Washington residents are complaining that the state’s website crashes or takes hours to respond.

Morgan Stanley said the average jobless rate in the United States will hover at 15.7 percent during the second quarter. According to the bank, the US will experience a 16.4 percent unemployment rate next month, "higher than at any point since the Great Depression.''

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this week that he doesn’t expect there will be more PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) money available after this round is exhausted. “We would expect this is the last tranche,” he said.

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The $350-billion program, which is part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is supposed to help small businesses retain employees during the downturn.

However, economists say there is a need for more money because as many as 30 million small businesses in the country, are struggling to stay afloat. They project there could be a second wave of layoffs and applications for unemployment benefits.

“I think the first wave came,” David G. Blanchflower, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, told NBC. He believes there were indications of an oncoming crisis in the March jobs data: “People thought maybe they could hang on; then, really, they can’t.”

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