A scene from the distant past when jobs were many... but now, US job losses are starting to mount, and now stand just short of 40 million. Image Credit: AP

New York: Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week to bring the two-and-a-half month total during the coronavirus pandemic to above 40 million, signaling economic pain is deepening despite a gradual reopening of business across the country.

Initial jobless claims for regular state programmes totaled 2.12 million in the week ended May 23, Labor Department figures showed. 

While the latest tally was down from the prior week's 2.45 million and marked the eighth straight weekly decline, it's still far above the 212,000 average of initial claims in the first two months of 2020 and the pre-pandemic record of 695,000.

Continuing claims, which tally Americans claiming unemployment benefits in state programmes, fell to 21.1 million for the week ended May 16, the first decline during the pandemic. That suggests the job market is starting to rebound as businesses reopen and bring people back to work.