US jobless claims soar past 30 million; Europe reeling also

AP News
April 30, 2020 - 1:11 pm
A passer-by wearing a mask out of concern for the COVID-19 coronavirus, background center, walks past mannequins in a clothing store, Wednesday, April 29, 2020, in Boston.

AP Photo/Steven Senne

By David Crary, Christopher Rugaber and John Leicester, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Bleak new figures Thursday underscored the worldwide economic pain inflicted by the coronavirus: The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose past a staggering 30 million, while Europe's economies are in a record slide.

The statistics are likely to turn up the pressure on politicians to ease the lockdowns that have closed factories and other businesses.

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In the United States, government figures showed that 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for jobless benefits last week, raising the total to about 30.3 million in the six weeks since the outbreak took hold.

New Jersey’s unemployment number now hovers around 930,000 people. Pennsylvania counts about 40,000 fewer people without a job than last week, but the state still has 1.6 million out of work.

The layoffs amount to 1 in 6 American workers and encompass more people than the entire population of Texas. Some economists say that when the unemployment rate for April comes out next week, it could be as high as 20% — a figure not seen since the Depression of the 1930s, when joblessness peaked at 25%.

And the number of job losses could be even higher than the unemployment claims would suggest, because some people did not apply and others couldn't get through to their states' overwhelmed systems. A poll by two economists found that the U.S. may have lost 34 million jobs.

"This is the saddest day for the global economy we have ever seen" in the 50 years that economists at High Frequency Economics have been following economic data, they wrote in a report.

The virus has killed more than 220,000 people worldwide, including 61,000 in the U.S., according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Confirmed infections globally topped 3.2 million, including 1 million in the U.S., but the true numbers are believed to be much higher because of limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments.

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Rugaber reported from Washington, Leicester from Paris. AP reporters around the world contributed to this report. KYW Newsradio's Kristen Johanson contributd to this report.