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3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week: What does it mean for the economy?

Data pix.

WASHINGTON -- New U.S. unemployment numbers are through the roof. But what are they really telling us?

At the peak of the Great Recession in March 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits in one week hit 665,000. That number is looking pretty good compared to the nearly 3.3 million Americans who filed for unemployment last week.

It's the biggest jump in new claims in history, but it may not be the worst. The numbers don't include data from this week when more states, including Wisconsin, ordered nonessential businesses to close.

Economists say this is the beginning of a massive spike in unemployment; more than 40 million Americans could lose their jobs by April. However, the stock market rose Thursday,  March 26 after the U.S. Senate passed a government aid package that includes checks for most Americans with additional money for people who have been laid off.

Now, the question is whether that money will come fast enough to cushion the economic blow.

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