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5.2 million more seek unemployment aid as US layoffs spread

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FILE – In this March 17, 2020 file photo, people wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas. About half of all working Americans say they or a member of their household have lost some kind of income due to the coronavirus pandemic, with low-income Americans and those without college degrees especially likely to have lost a job. That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/John Locher)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The wave of layoffs that has engulfed the U.S. economy since the coronavirus struck forced 5.2 million more people to seek unemployment benefits last week.

Roughly 22 million have sought jobless benefits in the past month — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record.

All told, roughly nearly 12 million people are now receiving unemployment checks, roughly matching the peak reached in January 2010, shortly after the Great Recession officially ended.

All businesses deemed nonessential have been closed in nearly every state as the economy has virtually shut down. Deep job losses have been inflicted across nearly every industry. Some economists say the unemployment rate could reach as high as 20% in April, which would be the highest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s. By comparison, unemployment never topped 10% during the Great Recession.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story is below:

The U.S. government is poised Thursday to announce the latest alarming report on the layoffs that have been sweeping across the economy since the coronavirus outbreak struck hard last month.

Several million more people are expected to have filed for unemployment benefits last week, after nearly 17 million applied for aid in the previous three weeks. It is the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record.

All businesses deemed nonessential have been closed in 48 states as the economy has essentially shut down. Some economists say the unemployment rate could reach as high as 20% in April, which would be the highest rate since the Great Depression.

Layoffs have spread beyond services industries such as restaurants and hotels into blue-collar and professional occupations, including software programmers, construction workers and sales jobs. Up to 50 million jobs are vulnerable to coronavirus-related layoffs, economists say — about one-third of all positions in the United States.

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