The U.S. unemployment rate was 14.7 percent in April, the highest since the Great Depression, and many economists expect it will near 20 percent in May.
An estimated 2.1 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week despite the gradual reopening of businesses around the country, bringing the running total since the coronavirus shutdowns took hold in mid-March to about 41 million, the government said Thursday.
The figures underscored the continuing damage to businesses and livelihoods from the outbreak that has now killed at least 100,000 people in the U.S., more than the number of Americans lost in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined, and more than 33 times the death toll on 9/11.
The layoffs in the U.S. have hit some parts of the country with particular force.
Here is a state-by-state breakdown.
Nevada’s unemployment rate in April reached 28.2 percent, the highest in the nation.
Michigan’s unemployment rate was next at 22.7 percent.
Next followed by Hawaii at 22.3 percent.
At the other end of the scale, Connecticut’s jobless rate was 7.9 percent, the nation’s lowest.
Next, followed Minnesota (8.1 percent).
Finally, Nebraska (8.3 percent).
As bad as the numbers are, the real picture may be worse. The government counts people as unemployed only if they’re actually looking for a job, and many probably see no point in doing that when so many businesses are shut down.
The figures come amid an intensifying debate in Congress over whether to extend $600 in extra weekly federal unemployment benefits, which were provided under rescue legislation passed in March but are set to expire July 31.
Democrats have proposed extending the payments, while Republicans have argued that the extra money could discourage laid-off workers from returning to jobs that pay less than they are getting on unemployment.
First-time applications for unemployment, though still extraordinarily high, have fallen for eight straight weeks, and states are gradually letting stores, restaurants, salons, gyms and other businesses reopen. But other employers are still laying off workers in the face of a deep recession.
The Labor Department report included a positive sign: The number of people now receiving benefits fell for the first time since the outbreak intensified in mid-March, from 25 million to 21 million. That suggests companies are starting to rehire and could mean that total job losses will peak in May.
Still, economists say many of the jobs lost are never coming back, and double-digit unemployment could persist through 2021.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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