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2.4 million more Americans file unemployment claims as pandemic’s economic toll grows

Over the past nine weeks, 26 percent of the people who were working before the pandemic have filed for jobless pay.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

More than 2.4 million people applied for US unemployment benefits last week after the latest wave of layoffs from the viral outbreak that triggered widespread business shutdowns two months ago and sent the economy into a deep recession.

Roughly 38.6 million people have filed for jobless aid since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said Thursday.

In addition, newly eligible recipients, such as gig workers and independent contractors, have filed 3.7 million claims under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, part of the rescue package Congress approved in March.


Over the past nine weeks, 26 percent of the people who were working before the pandemic have filed for jobless pay.

In Massachusetts, 38,100 residents filed new claims, down from 45,300 last week. Another 116,000 came from workers covered by the new pandemic assistance program. Since mid-March, the state has received 1.23 million new claims, a number equivalent to one-third of the pre-COVID-19 workforce.

On Thursday, the Baker administration said that workers laid off due to the pandemic who have exhausted regular unemployment compensation may now receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits under the federal CARES Act. Payments will automatically continue for individuals who have been receiving standard unemployment benefits.

The continuing stream of heavy job cuts reflects an economy that is sinking into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that the economy is shrinking at a 38 percent annualized rate in the April-June quarter. That would by far be the worst quarterly contraction on record.

Nearly half of Americans say either that their incomes have declined or that they live with another adult who has lost pay through a job loss or reduced hours, according to Census Bureau survey data released Wednesday More than one-fifth of Americans say they have little or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time.


In April, employers shed 20 million jobs, eliminating a decade’s worth of job growth in a single month. The US unemployment rate reached 14.7 percent, the highest since the Depression. But millions of people who were out of work weren’t counted as unemployed, because they didn’t look for a new job.

Since then, 10 million more laid-off workers have applied for benefits. The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said Sunday that the unemployment rate could peak in May or June at 20 to 25 percent.

Major employers continue to announce job cuts. Uber said this week that it will lay off 3,000 employees, on top of 3,700 it has already cut, because demand for its ride-hailing service has plummeted. Vice, a TV and digital news organization tailored for younger people, announced 155 layoffs globally last week.

Digital publishers Quartz and BuzzFeed, the magazine giant Conde Nast, and the company that owns The Economist, a business-focused magazine, also announced job cuts last week.

Correction: Due to an error by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, an earlier version of this story contained incorrect data for jobless claims made under the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program.

Christina Prignano and Larry Edelman of the Globe staff contributed.