Updated at 8:48 a.m. ET
Nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week — bringing the total to 36.5 million in the past eight weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday.
It’s the latest grim sign of the economic damage from the coronavirus crisis. The unemployment rate shot up to 14.7% last month — the highest level since the Great Depression. In February, before the coronavirus shutdowns took hold, unemployment was at a nearly 50-year low of 3.5%.
On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell painted a grim picture for the economy. “The scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since World War II,” he said.
The economy shrank at a 4.8% pace in the first quarter of 2020, but analysts are forecasting a double-digit drop in coming months.
The numbers are staggering, but since spiking in March — to a record high of 6.9 million — initial jobless claims have now declined for six weeks in a row. They fell by 195,000, or about 6%, in the most recent week ending last Saturday.