US layoffs surged to a record high of 11.4 million in March

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US layoffs soared in March to a record 11.4 million after state and local governments closed restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and other nonessential businesses in response to the intensifying viral outbreak.

The Labor Department said Friday that job openings plunged, and hiring also fell sharply, though those changes weren’t nearly as dramatic as layoffs, which rose more than six-fold. The number of available jobs fell nearly 12 percent, to 6.2 million. The number of hires declined 13 percent, to 5.2 million.

The data shows how employers quickly cut jobs as mandated shutdowns rolled out, but did not make equally large shifts to job searches or hiring. Further declines in job openings would suggest that companies are bracing for a lengthier slowdown.

The figures lag more recent data such as the April jobs report, released last week, which showed the unemployment rate leaped to 14.7 percent that month, the highest since the Great Depression. But the report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, helps illustrate how businesses responded to the initial viral outbreak.

Weekly jobless claims figures, which are more up to date, show that layoffs have declined for six straight weeks, but remain at historically high levels. Nearly 3 million people sought unemployment aid last week.

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