New claims for unemployment benefits filed by US workers declined slightly last week, but were still a staggering 3.2 million, government data said Thursday.
The data from the Labor Department bring the total claims filed since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close their doors to stop the virus’s spread, to 33.5 million.
The number of claims filed last week were slightly more than analysts expected and underscore the continuing damage done by the pandemic the United States, where 73,095 people have died from the disease and 1,227,430 cases have been reported as of Wednesday.
However Thursday’s figure for the week ending May 2 was a decrease from the previous week, when 3.8 million workers filed new unemployment claims.
That may indicate the initial wave of layoffs is starting to ebb, but the number remains incredibly high — well above even the worst four weeks of the global financial crisis and more comparable to unemployment levels seen during the Great Depression 90 years ago.
In another report on Thursday, the Labor Department said nonfarm productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, decreased at a 2.5% annualized rate in the first quarter. That was the largest decline since the fourth quarter of 2015 and followed a 1.2% pace of increase in the fourth quarter.
Hours worked tumbled at a 3.8% rate last quarter, the sharpest decline since the third quarter of 2009. Hours worked increased at a 1.2% rate in the fourth quarter.