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16.8M Americans Are Jobless

NEW YORK (AP) — A staggering 16.8 million Americans lost their jobs in just three weeks in a measure of how fast the coronavirus has brought world economies to their knees. Meanwhile, religious leaders around the globe Thursday urged people to celebrate Good Friday and Easter from the safety of their homes.

In other developments, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved out of intensive care at the London hospital where he is being treated for the virus. The 55-year-old leader had taken a turn for the worse early in the week as his country descended into its biggest crisis since World War II.

Governments warned that the hard-won gains against the scourge must not be jeopardized by relaxing social distancing over the weekend. Across Europe, where Easter is one of the busiest travel times of the year, authorities set up roadblocks and otherwise discouraged family gatherings.

A spike in deaths in Britain and New York and surges of reported new infections in Japan and in India’s congested cities made it clear the battle is far from over.

New York state reported a record-breaking number of dead for a third straight day, 799. More than 7,000 people have died in the state, accounting for almost half the U.S. death toll of more than 16,000.

“That is so shocking and painful and breathtaking, I don’t even have the words for it,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

But he added that there are hopeful signs, including slowdowns in the number of people being hospitalized, admitted to intensive care and placed on ventilators.

He said the onslaught of patients has not been as big as feared and hospitals are standing up to the strain so far. About 18,000 people were hospitalized, well short of the 90,000 hospital beds statewide, many of which were hurriedly lined up at a convention center and a Navy ship docked in the city.

Worldwide, the number of dead neared 95,000 and confirmed infections reached about 1.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true numbers are believed much higher, in part because of different rules for counting the dead and cover-ups by some governments.

Numbers released Thursday by the U.S. government showed that 6.6 million workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, on top of more than 10 million in the two weeks before that. That amounts to about 1 in 10 American workers — the biggest, fastest pileup of job losses since the world’s largest economy began keeping records in 1948.

And still more job cuts are expected. The U.S. unemployment rate in April could hit 15% — a number not seen since the end of the Great Depression.

Sharon Bridgeman, 57, of Kansas City, Missouri, was laid off from her job two weeks ago at a nonprofit that helps homeless people and is still waiting to be approved for unemployment benefits.

“I’m worried I may not have a job to go back to,” she said. “I’m also worried about the people I work with.”

In the U.S., the Federal Reserve announced it will provide up to $2.3 trillion in loans targeted toward both households and businesses.

In many European countries, where social safety nets tend to be stronger than in the U.S., government programs that subsidize workers’ pay are keeping millions of people on payrolls in places like Germany and France, though typically with fewer hours and at lower wages.

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