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Several million more jobless claims likely as layoffs mount

The layoffs are only getting uglier.

If you thought last week’s gauge of U.S. layoffs was ugly, brace yourself for an even more brutal tally Thursday as the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic mounts.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg estimate a Labor Department report Thursday morning will show 3.5 million Americans filed initial applications for unemployment insurance last week, up from the record 3.3 million who sought benefits the prior week.

Some economists expect a far bigger total. Nomura forecasts 4.1 million; Morgan Stanley, 4.5 million; and Bank of America, 5.5 million. Such first-time jobless claims represent the best measure of layoffs across the country.

The numbers could mark just the initial wave of a punishing couple of months.

“We could see unprecedented job loss in the April jobs report in the tens of millions, with the unemployment rate (now a 50-year low of 3.5%) reaching double digits,” Bank of America said in a research note.

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