Jobless claims rose by 4.43 million last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday, bringing the tally of U.S. coronavirus-related job losses to 26.5 million.
That means about one in five working Americans lost a job since mid-March when states – grappling with limited testing abilities to trace a deadly virus that so far has no approved treatment – began ordering people to stay at home to stem the death toll.
It was the third week of declines since jobless claims, recorded when people file for unemployment benefits, hit an all-time high in the last week of March, according to government data.
More than 95% of the U.S. population remains under state orders that limit workers to essential activities. While the death toll has started to decline in New York and other areas that were the first hit, it is mounting in some states where governors have begun relaxing restrictions, such as Georgia.
The death toll for COVID-19 stood at 46,785 Americans on Thursday morning, with 842,624 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. That puts the death rate for the new coronavirus at 5.6%, based on the Johns Hopkins data, which is updated throughout the day. That makes COVID-19 about 56 times deadlier than the seasonal flu which has a 0.1% mortality rate.
Health authorities began recommending shutdowns, which led to the job losses, after testing shortages left them unable to “test and trace,” the traditional way of stemming epidemics. The U.S. leads the world in confirmed cases, surpassing the totals of the next five countries combined: Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the U.K.
Last week’s jobless claims translate into an unemployment rate of about 20%, which is double the peak reached during the financial crisis a decade ago, according to Labor Department data.
Congress has passed three relief packages into law in the last five weeks. The biggest was the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that created the PPP, which gives forgivable loans to companies that keep workers on their payrolls. The rescue bill also beefed up unemployment benefits and authorized $1,200 payments for most Americans.
The Senate on Tuesday passed a $484 billion bill that included an additional $320 billion for the Payroll Protection Program as well as $100 billion for front-line hospitals and testing programs. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on Thursday afternoon.