One in ten US workers have lost their jobs in the last three weeks, according to latest weekly unemployment claims figures.
Government data showed just over 6.6 million people applied for jobless benefits in the week ending 4 April as the coronavirus crisis shuts down large parts of the world’s biggest economy.
It brings the total making unemployment claims to 16.8 million over the past three weeks, roughly one in ten of the workforce – the largest and fastest string of job losses on records stretching back to 1948.
The virus outbreak is estimated to have wiped out a third of economic activity in the current quarter.
America’s latest weekly jobless figure was lower than the record 6.87 million registered the week before, but higher than the 5.2 million average figure pencilled in by economists.
Economists now think monthly job losses could total almost 20 million with the unemployment rate hitting 15%.
It comes at a time when 48 states have closed non-essential businesses.
Restaurants, hotels, department stores and small businesses have laid off millions as they struggle to pay bills at a time when their revenue has vanished.
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Figures from Morgan Stanley showed non-grocery retail business plunged by 97% in the last week of March compared with a year earlier.
The number of airline passengers screened by the Transportation Security Administration has plunged 95% from a year ago. US hotel revenue has tumbled 80%.
A forecast model created at the University of Pennsylvania projects that the US economy will shrink at a 30% annual rate in the April-June quarter.
That is even after taking into account the government’s $2.2trn (£1.8trn) relief measure, by far the largest federal aid package in history by far.
That would be the largest economic contraction since the Second World War.
A key aspect of the government’s rescue package is a $350bn small business loan programme intended to help companies avoid laying off staff.
However, many small firms have had trouble accessing loan applications, and some economists say the scale of the programme is insufficient.
Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will seek an additional $250bn for the programme from congress.
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