An additional 1.5 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment in the week ending June 6.

In 12 weeks, more than 44 million have turned to unemployment, an unprecedented number in U.S. history. Last week’s number is down 355,000 from the prior week, when 1.88 million filed initial claims.

At least one million have filed claims each week since mid-March. The peak occurred in the final week of March when 6.9 million requested unemployment benefits.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending May 30 were in Florida (32,296), California (25,372), Oklahoma (16,662), and Mississippi (158).

Approximately 1.4 million jobs were cut in March and 20.7 million in April. In those two months, 6.1 million jobs in the food and drink industry were erased. Around 6.3 million employees were on payroll at eating and drinking places in April. According to the National Restaurant Association, this was the lowest employment level since May 1988.

However, the economy showed signs of improvement in May when 2.5 million jobs were added, including 1.4 million in the restaurant industry. The Association said this rebound lines up with surveys it sent to operators in mid-May. At that time, 62 percent of operators said they rehired furloughed or laid-off employees in recent days or weeks. Approximately 61 percent of restaurateurs said they anticipate adding more employees to payroll within the next 30 days.

Full-service chains such as Chili’s, Red Robin, and Outback Steakhouse have reopened hundreds of dining rooms across the country as states have lifted mandates, bringing back many workers from furlough in the process. On the quick-service side, Taco Bell announced that it will hire at least 30,000 employees this summer and Dunkin’ franchisees are planning to onboard 25,000 workers.

Many operators have voiced concern about their ability to rehire employees given the enhanced employee benefits under the CARES Act, which provides unemployed workers with $600 more per week. At the federal level, lawmakers are arguing whether to extend the increased benefits past July.

Democrats say it’s too early to pull back on benefits while Republicans believe the unemployment insurance will slow the return to work. In many cases, employees are making more money on unemployment than they did at their full-time job. A Congressional Budget Office report estimates that five out of six employees would fall in this category if the $600 boost continued for six months.

In a stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives in May, the enhanced unemployment benefits would extend to the end of January. However, the bill is unlikely to see any progress with Republicans in the Senate showing no desire to take up the legislation

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