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

Another 1.9 million people filed for unemployment last week, the Department of Labor said on Thursday.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic is still putting a historic strain on the labor market, though the pace of unemployment applications continues to slow.

  • The number of jobless applications has steadily declined after peaking at 6.9 million in late March.
  • For comparison, the record number of filings before the pandemic was set in 1982, when 695,000 people filed for unemployment.
  • Without taking seasonal factors into account, 1.6 million Americans applied for unemployment last week.

Worth noting: Not included in the headline figures are the people who filed for unemployment under a new program created by the CARES Act that extends benefits to gig and self-employed workers.

  • A total of 623,000 people across 36 states applied for that program last week.

By the numbers: Continued claims, which show how many Americans are still receiving unemployment benefits after initially applying, edged higher to 21.5 million. This figure reports with a 2-week lag.

  • Meanwhile, another 10.7 million are continuing to receive benefits under the gig worker program as of May 16 (the latest data available), roughly 3 million more than the week before that.
  • Economists are watching for consistent drops in continued claims, which would suggest a strong flow of Americans are going back to work.

Between the lines: State labor departments across the country have been overwhelmed by the never-before-seen wave of unemployment filings.

  • Bloomberg reported this week that almost one-third of unemployment benefits that were supposed to be paid out to workers hadn't arrived yet.

What's next: The May jobs report — out Friday morning — will give a better picture of how many workers were out of a job last month.

  • The unemployment rate is estimated to spike to 19.8%.

The bottom line: A historically high number of Americans are still applying for jobless aid, at the same time that nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality continue to mount following George Floyd's death.

Go deeper

Biden allies demand help for gig workers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Activists are urging Joe Biden to turn his focus to a recovery plan for the gig economy, saying there's a moral and political imperative to help Americans who rely on short-term, on-demand contract jobs for their livelihoods.

Why it matters: "You're missing voters that would be aligned with Biden," said María Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latino, who's engaged the Biden campaign on this. "It’s not just young voters — it’s millions of African American and Latino voters that if you mention they’re part of this economy, it’d go a long way."

Coronavirus cases increase in 17 states

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

Coronavirus infections ticked up slightly over the past week, thanks to scattered outbreaks in every region of the country.

Where it stands: The U.S. has been making halting, uneven progress against the virus since August. Overall, we're moving in the right direction, but we're often taking two steps forward and one step back.

Journalism enters dangerous new era

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Capitol attack on Jan. 6 resulted in at least nine physical assaults against journalists and at least five arrests, per the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker's top editor.

Why it matters: President Trump's harsh rhetoric towards the press has empowered leaders abroad and locally in the U.S. to continue to attack press that they don't like.