Unemployment claims may reach 41 million in 10 weeks as U.S. businesses slowly reopen

Businesses are starting to reopen as the nation thaws from the economic freeze imposed by the coronavirus, but millions are still expected to seek unemployment benefits because they are out of work.

Between 2.1 million and 2.4 million Americans filed initial applications for unemployment insurance last week, economists estimate. At the high end, that would match the number who filed claims the week before, but it's down from the record 6.9 million who sought assistance in late March.

Still, if the latest tally matches that forecast, it will mean roughly 41 million Americans have applied for unemployment in just 10 weeks. The Labor Department will report the number of claims Thursday.

A record 20.5 million jobs were lost in April, according to the Labor Department, spiking the unemployment rate to 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression and four times the 3.5% unemployment rate reported in February, which represented a 50-year low.

Unemployment claims continue to climb as the U.S. economy struggles to restart after grinding to a near halt this spring to slow the coronavirus pandemic. 

Unemployment claims are soaring as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down businesses.

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"While almost all states have begun to re-open their economies in one way or another, the process is gradual,'' BofA Research said in an investors note. "This argues for persistent pain in labor markets.''

Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter, @charissejones