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Another 2.98 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Why it matters: The coronavirus is still forcing a historically high number of Americans out of work. In two months alone, more than 36 million people have filed jobless claims.

Data: U.S. Employment and Training Administration via FRED; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Between the lines: The pace of new applications has slowed from its peak in March, but the weekly numbers are still way higher than before businesses shuttered to contain the outbreak.

  • There are more jobless workers that haven't been able to get their application through. State unemployment offices are racing to get through an avalanche of unemployment filings — with states like New York processing more claims in the past few months than they have in years.
  • Measuring the backlog is "like trying to measure the ocean, it's constantly moving," New York Labor Department commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a press call yesterday.
  • While more Americans than ever before are eligible for unemployment, including gig workers, some states are just beginning to scale up to accept those applications.

By the numbers: The total number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits — after initially applying — rose, bringing the total to a record 22.8 million.

  • A decrease in this figure would be an indication that Americans are returning back to work.

The bottom line: Goldman Sachs estimates the unemployment rate will hit 25%, matching the peak level of joblessness during the Great Depression.

Go deeper

The fight over turning gig workers into gig employees

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The gig economy model powering a number of key tech giants threatens to break down in California, in a battle that may spill out across the country over whether gig workers should be considered employees.

Why it matters: Treating gig companies' workers as employees would guarantee them benefits and other rights they don't necessarily get as independent contractors. But the prospect presents an existential threat to the firms' business models.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 mins ago - Economy & Business

Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.