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2.1 Million Jobless Claims Filed in Past Week as Coronavirus Unemployment Tops 40 Million

People in cars wait in line to pick up unemployment forms, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Hialeah, Fla., April 8, 2020. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

An additional 2.1 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week, the Department of Labor announced Thursday, bringing the total number of unemployed Americans to over 40 million.

Continuing unemployment claims dropped last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, a sign that the economic destruction from the coronavirus is beginning to slow as some businesses are allowed to reopen and employees return to work.

A total of 2.1 million Americans claimed jobless benefits during the week ending May 16, down from a peak of 25 million the previous week.

Another 2.12 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits over the week that ended May 23, even as social distancing restrictions put in place to combat the coronavirus began to be lifted. The previous week saw 2.45 million people file initial benefits claims.

More than 40 million workers have filed for jobless benefits over the past nine weeks as the coronavirus forced businesses to shutter and furlough or lay off employees.

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