More than 2.1 million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the novel coronavirus continues to hammer the US economy, the Labor Department said Thursday.

A total of 2.12 million jobless claims were filed, representing a week-on-week fall of 323,000. It is the lowest figure recorded since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March.

The 10-week total for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic now tops 40.8 million.

Although the pandemic has caused the biggest loss in US history, the figures indicate losses are slowing for an eighth straight week after a peak of 6.9 million in late March, as states begin the process of reopening economies at various levels.

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

The US is the country hardest-hit by the pandemic with nearly 1.7 million cases and more than 100,400 fatalities, according to a running tally of Johns Hopkins University. In all, more than 391,500 people have recovered from the virus.

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