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Coronavirus: US weekly jobless claims hit 6.6 million

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits has surged for a third week in a row as the economic toll tied to the coronavirus intensifies.

More than 6.6 million people filed jobless claims in the week ending 4 April, the Department of Labor said.

The filings in the previous two weeks totalled more than 10 million.

The deepening economic crisis comes as the number of cases in the US soars to more than 430,000.

The surging joblessness is a stark reversal for the world's biggest economy where the unemployment rate had been hovering around 3.5%.

"Today's report continues to reflect the personal sacrifice being made by America's workers and their families to slow the spread of the coronavirus," Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said.

The US recently passed a more than $2tn rescue bill, which funds direct payment for households, assistance for businesses and increased unemployment benefits. Lawmakers are now discussing further relief.

But the number of people and firms seeking assistance has overwhelmed the efforts.

In New York, Lou Benavides, who works in the music industry, has tried for weeks to register for jobless benefits, but cannot reach the Labor Department to finish processing his claim.

"There was one day when I made like 300 calls," he said. "I still have not spoken to a human being."