Layoffs are skyrocketing to unprecedented levels as the coronavirus upends the U.S. economy.

The number of Americans filing initial applications for unemployment benefits jumped nearly twelvefold to a record 3.28 million last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, offering the most vivid evidence yet of the pandemic’s widespread damage to the economy.

The total was well above the 1.5 million claims economists had forecast, according to the median estimate of those surveyed by Bloomberg. Workers file claims for unemployment benefits when they lose their jobs.

“A definite and unmistakable sign the United States has entered a recession,” Chief Economist Scott Anderson of Bank of the West wrote in a note to clients.

The pandemic has set off the most abrupt near-shutdown of the economy in history. Many restaurants, shops, movie theaters, sports arenas and other gathering spots across the country suddenly closed their doors or scaled back service last week to contain the spread of the virus.

Source: USA Today

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