Job losses mount again in US despite reopenings

  • Dayanara Nieto cleans windows outside of Janie and Jack, a children's clothing store where she is a salesperson, at The Grove shopping center Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in Los Angeles. California moved to further relax its coronavirus restrictions and help the battered economy. Retail stores, including those at shopping malls, can open at 50% capacity. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Marcio Jose Sanchez

  • A masked man walks past a boarded up Disney store on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in San Francisco. While much of California moves swiftly to reopen things like hair salons under California Gov. Gavin Newsom's guidance, the San Francisco Bay Area is continuing to keep the brakes on. Some health officials are questioning whether the state is taking enough time to assess the effects of reopening things like stores before jumping ahead to broader re-openings, risking a surge in infections. (AP... Ben Margot

  • Two men, wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus, take an escalator into Schuman metro station during the partial lifting of coronavirus, COVID-19, lockdown regulations in Brussels, Thursday, May 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) Francisco Seco

  • Masked people walk past a boarded up Old Navy clothing store on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in San Francisco. While much of California moves swiftly to reopen things like hair salons under Gov. Gavin Newsom's guidance, the San Francisco Bay Area is continuing to keep the brakes on. Some health officials are questioning whether the state is taking enough time to assess the effects of reopening things like stores before jumping ahead to broader re-openings, risking a surge in infections. (AP... Ben Margot

  • Bobby Catone, center, the owner of a Staten Island tanning salon, speaks to a crowd outside his business after being given a summons by police, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in New York. Catone opened the salon briefly Thursday morning in defiance of a law requiring non-essential businesses to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) Mark Lennihan

  • A health official wearing protective gear takes a rest during the COVID-19 testing at a public health center in Goyang, South Korea, Thursday, May 28, 2020. South Korea on Thursday reported its biggest jump in coronavirus cases in more than 50 days, a setback that could erase some of the hard-won gains that have made it a model for the rest of the world. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) Ahn Young-joon

  • A Party City employee delivers balloons to a customer curbside, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in Oceanside, N.Y. Long Island has become the latest region of New York to begin easing restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus as it enters the first phase of the state's four-step reopening process. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Mary Altaffer

  • People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus keep social distancing as they wait to buy sushi in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Thursday, May 28, 2020. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted a coronavirus state of emergency on Monday, ending the restrictions nationwide as businesses begin to reopen. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) Koji Sasahara

  • Disinfection team disinfect the premises of the grand mosque in capital Pristina, Kosovo on Thursday, May 28, 2020. Kosovo's mosques reopened on Thursday after more than two months of the virus lockdown. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu) Visar Kryeziu

  • People, wearing protective face masks as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, wait to receive a free meal at a church in The Cemetery neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, May 22, 2020. One in every three people faced hunger last year in Venezuela, according to the food agency's 2019 has increased in quarantine. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos) Ariana Cubillos

  • People leave a testing site after being tested for COVID-19 at the West Perrine Health Center during the new coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Miami. The walk-up site is a joint operation between the Florida Department of Health and Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) Lynne Sladky

  • Owners Shu Lei Hu, left, and her husband Shao Song Hu, right, demonstrate the use of robots for serving purposes or for dirty dishes collection, as part of a tryout of measures to respect social distancing and help curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at the family's Royal Palace restaurant in Renesse, south-western Netherlands, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong) Peter Dejong

  • Children of migrant workers look out from a train transporting them to their home states, at a railway station in Gauhati, India, Thursday, May 28, 2020. Rural villages across India are seeing an increase in cases with the return of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who left cities and towns where they were abandoned by their employers after having toiled for years building homes and roads. India sees no respite from the coronavirus caseload at a time when the two-month-old... Anupam Nath

  • A visitor admires paints at the exhibition of French painter Georges de La Tour, during the reopening of Palazzo Reale, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, May 28, 2020. The Royal Palace in Milan reopened Thursday only by reservation, after the closure due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) Luca Bruno

  • A cemetery worker shovels dirt into the grave of Apolonia Uanampa, who died from COVID-19, as another virus victim’s coffin is carried to her burial site at the Nueva Esperanza cemetery on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, Wednesday. AP PHOTO

  • Filipino seafarers, who got quarantined as they arrived in the country weeks ago, wait for their free ride back to their provinces, Thursday May 28, 2020 in Paranaque, Metro Manila, Philippines. The government continues to ease the lockdown which was set to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in the country. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila) Aaron Favila

Published: 5/28/2020 6:32:39 PM

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus crisis threw at least 2.1 million Americans out of work last week despite the gradual reopening of businesses around the country, stoking fears Thursday that the scourge is doing deep and potentially long-lasting damage to the U.S. economy.

Amid a few glimmers of hope, most of the latest economic news from around the globe was likewise grim, as some of the world’s most populous countries continued to report rising infections and deaths. The confirmed U.S. death toll topped 100,000, the highest in the world, on Wednesday.

The latest job-loss figures from the U.S. Labor Department bring to 41 million the running total of Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus shutdowns took hold in mid-March.

There were some encouraging signs: The overall number of Americans currently drawing jobless benefits dropped for the first time since the crisis began, from 25 million to 21 million. And first-time applications for unemployment have fallen for eight straight weeks, as states gradually let stores, restaurants and other businesses reopen and the auto industry starts up factories again.

But the number of U.S. workers filing for unemployment is still extraordinarily high by historical standards, and that suggests businesses are failing or permanently downsizing, not just laying off people until the crisis can pass, economists warn.

“That is the kind of economic destruction you cannot quickly put back in the bottle,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 14.7% in April, a level not seen since the Depression, and many economists expect it will be near 20% in May.

The figures come amid an intensifying debate in Congress over whether to extend $600 in extra weekly federal unemployment benefits, provided under rescue legislation passed in March but set to expire July 31.

Democrats have proposed extending the payments, while Republicans have argued that the extra money could discourage laid-off workers from returning to jobs that pay less than they are getting on unemployment.

Kelly Kelso, a 30-year-old roadie from Nashville for the rock group Foreigner, got her first unemployment check last week after more than eight weeks of waiting. She said she is still receiving far less in benefits than the $1,250 per week or more that she made on tour.

Though she is reluctant to leave the music industry, she said, “I have a cosmetology license. If all else fails, I could go back to doing hair.”

Another looming storm cloud: Economists say the sharp loss of tax revenue for state and local governments is likely to compound the damage from the shutdowns by forcing additional public-sector layoffs in the coming weeks.

Those layoffs have just recently started showing up in the weekly jobless claims report. Washington state, for example, reported layoffs of government employees.

Job cuts are also appearing far beyond the initially hit industries such as restaurants and stores, a sign that the damage is spreading even as businesses reopen. Washington state said it saw layoffs in insurance, and New York state reported job cuts by information technology companies.

Economists say many of the jobs lost are never coming back, and double-digit unemployment could persist through 2021.

And as discouraging as the numbers are, the real picture may be worse. The government counts people as unemployed only if they’re actually looking for a job, and many Americans probably see no point in trying when so many businesses are shut down.

Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are struggling after air travel plummeted early in the outbreak. Boeing is cutting more than 12,000 U.S. jobs through layoffs and buyouts, many expected to be in the Seattle area. European budget airline Easyjet said it will cut up to a third of its 15,000 employees. American Airlines plans to eliminate about 5,100 jobs.

Amtrak likewise announced it will lay off about 20% of its 18,000 workers amid a collapse in train ridership.

A number of European countries have strong safety-net programs that are underwriting the wages of millions of workers and keeping them on the payroll instead of adding them to the ranks of the unemployed. But the economic damage is mounting there, too.

Nissan is rolling back production in Spain in a move the government said could lead to 3,000 direct job cuts and thousands more losses at the automaker’s suppliers. And French unemployment claims jumped 22% in April, with 843,000 more people seeking work.

Elsewhere around the world, India saw another record daily jump in coronavirus cases. Russia reported a steady increase in its caseload, even as the city of Moscow and provinces across the vast country moved to ease restrictions in sync with the Kremlin’s political agenda.

And South Korea reported its biggest jump in infections in more than 50 days, a setback that could erase some of the hard-won gains that have made it a model for the rest of the world.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 5.7 million people and killed over 355,000, with the U.S. having the most confirmed cases and deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Europe has recorded about 170,000 deaths.

The true dimensions of the disaster are widely believed to be significantly greater, with experts saying many victims died without ever being tested.


Sewell reported from Cincinnati. Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.


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