More than 43 million Americans have sought standard or expanded eligibility unemployment benefits since widespread business shutdowns started in mid-March, according to the latest weekly batch of application figures.

Another 2.4 million people filed initial claims for standard unemployment insurance between May 10 and May 16, the federal Department of Labor announced Thursday. During that same span, about 2.2 million previously ineligible workers filed new claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that Congress created to make benefits available to gig workers, self-employed workers and others who do not qualify for UI.

Last week was the ninth straight during which several million workers submitted new applications for jobless aid, although it also marked the lowest reported one-week total in claims since the spike began.

Since March 15, the country has seen 38.6 million initial claims for standard unemployment aid and more than 4.8 million claims for the PUA program, together representing more than a quarter of what the U.S. labor force was in February.

The ongoing elevated level of need come as states around the country take tentative steps toward reviving business activity that had been shuttered for months to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Federal labor officials reported another 38,328 claims for unemployment insurance in Massachusetts last week, bringing the state's nine-week total to about 864,000. State officials will release their own data later Thursday including estimates of PUA claims, which will offer a clearer picture of the employment situation.

On Friday, Massachusetts will release statewide job losses and the unemployment rate for the month of April.

~ Chris Lisinski/SHNS

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