The Labor Department reported more than 6 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the week of March 27. Economists expected another 4 million to 5 million workers filed for jobless claims last week as coronavirus-related shutdowns roll through the country. The estimates ranged as high as 9 million.
Stock futures surged earlier after a jump in the price of oil, a financial market which has collapsed this year and raised concerns about hefty losses for the energy industry.
WTI crude jumped 10% to back above $22 a barrel on Thursday after President Donald Trump said he expects Saudi Arabia and Russia to come to an agreement about their price war that has added to the pain for the crude market, already getting hit by an unprecedented demand slowdown from the coronavirus.
Traders have been closely watching oil because of its influence over other financial markets. The oil losses have been so big, that they have caused investors to sell other assets to cover their losses in crude. Plus, the 63% decline in oil is hurting the U.S. shale industry, a big driver of the economy and employment.
Stocks posted steep losses on Wednesday to begin the second quarter, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to wreak havoc on global markets.