Nearly 3.2 million file for unemployment in last week, 33 million people out of work nationwide

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WASHINGTON — Business shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led nearly 3.2 million laid-off workers to apply for unemployment benefits last week, according to new national numbers.

Roughly 33.5 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the seven weeks since the coronavirus began forcing millions of companies to close their doors and slash their workforces.

That is the equivalent of one in five Americans who had been employed back in February, when the unemployment rate had reached a 50-year low of just 3.5%.

The most recent data released by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development this week showed the state had received nearly half a million unemployment applications and nearly 1.5 million weekly unemployment claims since the start of the pandemic.