Another 2.9 million people filed for U.S. jobless benefits last week, bringing COVID-19 total to 36 million

Nearly three million Americans applied for government benefits without a job last week, bringing the total of eight weeks during the coronavirus pandemic to more than 30 million people.

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The US Department of Labor reported Thursday that 2,981,000 people filed their initial claims in the week of May 9, a slight decline from the previous week's level and the sixth direct weekly decline.

But Thursday's data means that the total number of workers to fill out jobless help requests is now more than 36 million since mid-March.

Although the number of initial applicants is slowly decreasing, the number of people who benefit from a long period of work is still disturbingly high. Continuing claims have increased for the ninth consecutive week, from 456,000 to 22,833,000 a week, a worrying sign that job losses are becoming more permanent, said BMO economist Jennifer Lee.

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"When the blockades started, employers were forced to temporarily fire or dismiss their employees. But when will they bring them back?" Lee said Thursday. "Will they bring them back? The ongoing claims provide a glimpse of it and, so far, it doesn't look very encouraging."

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