April 23 (UPI) -- Another 4.4 million Americans filed for new unemployment claims, the Labor Department said Thursday in its weekly report.
The figure was a decrease of 810,000 from the previous week, which the department revised down by 8,000 claims. It placed the unemployment rate at 11 percent, a rise of nearly 3 percent from the previous week.
Economists were expecting between 4 million and 5.2 million new claims for the week ending April 18.
All told, nearly 30 million Americans have now filed jobless claims in the last five weeks. The previous four saw new claims of 5.3 million, 6.6 million, 6.9 million and 3.3 million, respectively.
The surge has completely wiped out all of the job gains, about 22 million, that were added since 2010 following the Great Recession.
Analysts expect layoffs in the millions to continue in the coming months before the recovery begins. They projected Thursday's report would show unemployment at around 15 percent. Just two months ago, it was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent.
The reporting of new claims has been hampered by their sheer volume that's overwhelming state filing systems. Michigan and Pennsylvania have been the most affected states, where one in five workers have filed for unemployment benefits.
The federal government's $2.2 trillion relief package last month included hundreds of billions to protect Americans' paychecks, but the fund ran out of money a week ago and Congress this week has been working on a deal to replenish it.
The fund was intended for small businesses, or those with fewer than 500 employees, but in recent days it's been reported that a number of larger businesses took money out of the fund.
Large restaurant chains such as Shake Shack, Potbelly and Ruth's Chris Steak House all received federal funds before announcing they would be returned.
Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the Trump administration has established "very clear guidance" on the Paycheck Protection Program to prevent its abuse by larger businesses, and promised to investigate potential cases of abuse.
Mnuchin told Fox Business the eligibility of some companies receiving loans was "questionable."
"I think they should review it," he said.
Mnuchin said ineligible companies receiving loans can pay the money back "quickly" with no liability.
"If they don't," he warned, "They could be subject to investigation."