The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits more than doubled to a second straight record as the coronavirus widened its reach and closed more businesses.

A total of 6.65 million people filed jobless claims in the week ended 28 March, according to Labour Department figures released Thursday, as many stores and restaurants were forced to close across the nation to mitigate the outbreak. The prior week’s level was also revised up slightly to 3.31 million.

The figure topped all analyst estimates and compared with a median projection of 3.76 million.

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Key insights

  • The weekly claims data, usually the first to show a hit amid a downturn, highlight the extent to which US businesses and workers are reeling from the global health crisis. Service providers – especially in retail, restaurants and travel – have been noticeably affected, though other industries have also reported weakness and layoffs.
  • Continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, jumped by 1.25 million to 3.03 million in the week ended March 21 – the highest since 2013. That pushed the insured unemployment rate up to 2.1% from 1.2%.
  • Friday’s jobs report is expected to show the first monthly decline in payrolls since 2010. Nonetheless, those figures will show only the start of the labour-market damage, as the government’s survey period covered early March, prior to the biggest rounds of layoffs and closures

State breakdown

  • California reported the most initial claims last week at about 879 000 on an unadjusted basis
  • Pennsylvania had about 406 000
  • New York had 366 000
  • Michigan reported 311 000
  • Texas had about 276 000
  • Ohio reported 272 000.

With assistance from Chris Middleton


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