Another 3.2 million Americans filed new jobless claims last week
(U.S. National Guard photo by Joseph Siemandel)

New claims for unemployment benefits filed by US workers declined slightly last week, but were still a staggering 3.2 million, government data said Thursday.

The data from the Labor Department bring the total claims filed since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close their doors to stop the virus's spread, to 33.5 million.

The number of claims filed last week were slightly more than analysts expected and underscore the continuing damage done by the pandemic the United States, where 73,095 people have died from the disease and 1,227,430 cases have been reported as of Wednesday.

However Thursday's figure for the week ending May 2 was a decrease from the previous week, when 3.8 million workers filed new unemployment claims.

That may indicate the initial wave of layoffs is starting to ebb, but the number remains incredibly high -- well above even the worst four weeks of the global financial crisis and more comparable to unemployment levels seen during the Great Depression 90 years ago.

Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics predicted new weekly filings dipping below one million by the second or third week of June, while hiring may begin picking back up if states reopen their economies.

"Claims continue to decay by about 15 to 18 percent per-week, and are now at less than half the 6.9 million peak in the week of March 28," he said in an analysis.