The US Labor Department said Thursday nearly 3 million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus continues to hammer the economy.

Approximately 2.98 million jobless claims were filed, representing a week-on-week fall of 195,000 claims. The figure is just shy of 3 million for the first time since mid-March.

The eight-week total for those who lost jobs during the pandemic now tops 36.5 million, by far the biggest loss in US history.

Many businesses have been shuttered or greatly reduced operations as states enforce stay-at-home orders and halted operations for all but essential businesses. Most school systems have similarly suspended operations.

While states are beginning the process of reopening, as favored by US President Donald Trump, many experts and politicians continue to raise concerns about an early reopening that could lead to a resurgence.

The US is the country hardest-hit by the pandemic with nearly 1.4 million cases and more than 84,100 fatalities, according to a running tally of Johns Hopkins University. In all, nearly 243,400 people have recovered from the disease.

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