Total U.S. unemployment claims are expected to surpass 40 million.

Forecasters expect the weekly Labor Department report on unemployment claims on Thursday morning to show another 2.1 million filings last week, according to MarketWatch, pushing the total past 40 million since the coronavirus pandemic began to devastate the U.S. economy in mid-March.

The latest claims may not only be a result of fresh layoffs, but also evidence that states are working their way through a backlog. And overcounting in some places and undercounting in others makes it difficult to measure the layoffs precisely.

Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, Congress approved an expanded palette of jobless benefits that included freelancers, the self-employed, gig workers and others who would not normally qualify under state rules. But many states, flooded with applicants, were slow to put the program into effect, and those eligible may not yet be fully reflected.

“When we think about what to do when benefits expire, it would be helpful to know how many people are actually getting them,” said Elizabeth Pancotti, a research assistant at the National Bureau of Economic Research. The Labor Department reports may be the best source of information, she said, but they offer an “incomplete picture.”

Global markets were largely higher on Thursday, despite rising tension between the United States and China and expectations of another bleak report on the U.S. jobs market.

Stocks in Frankfurt and London were up about 1 percent after a mixed day on Wall Street. Other indicators were similarly positive but restrained. Prices for U.S. Treasury bonds rose, signaling traders were seeking safer investments.

Futures markets were predicting that Wall Street would match European gains when U.S. markets opened later on Thursday.

Investors dismissed the heated rhetoric between the United States and China over Hong Kong, which drove the Hang Seng Index in the semiautonomous Chinese city down 0.8 percent late in the trading day. Instead, they focused on efforts to shake off the effects of lockdowns intended to stop the coronavirus outbreak.

In South Korea, the central bank slashed interest rates in an effort to rekindle growth. Philip Lowe, the governor of Australia’s central bank, suggested the downturn there may not be as bad as expected. Japanese stocks rose more than 2 percent, the biggest gain among major markets, one day after leaders approved a new stimulus package.

Not all market indicators were positive. Oil prices fell in futures markets on lingering worries about excess supply.

Since March, when the crisis began to shut businesses en masse, a generation of professionals has seen careers enter a state of suspended animation. Hiring has dried up, advancement has ceased, job searches have been put on hold and new ventures are in jeopardy. As a result, even well-connected high earners are suddenly in unfamiliar territory.

“There is deep uncertainty,” said Alisa Cohn, an executive coach who works with companies including Google and Pfizer. “We’re not just in a holding pattern. We’re on our way somewhere new, but we don’t know what it looks like.”

In March, Hasti Nazem, 35, left a start-up she helped found. Two months later, the job market has imploded, promising leads have dried up, and she is stuck in limbo. She is mining her network for introductions, but still without a full-time job.

“I’m mostly having Zoom calls with strangers,” she said.

The British low-price airline easyJet said on Thursday that it planned to reduce staff by up to 30 percent and that it expected to fly in the July-September period at nearly 30 percent of the capacity a year earlier.

“We are having to consider very difficult decisions which will impact our people,” said the airline’s chief executive, Johan Lundgren.

The announcement from easyJet, which mainly serves Europe and has over 15,000 employees, comes as the company aims to resume a small number of routes across Britain and France beginning June 15. “We expect demand to build slowly, only returning to 2019 levels in about three years’ time,” the statement said.

When flights restart, staff and passengers will be required to wear masks and, at least initially, no onboard food service will be offered, the company said. EasyJet recently signed two loans totaling 400 million pounds, or about $490 million, maturing in 2022.

Wall Street climbed for a second day on Wednesday as investors kept their focus on the prospect of economic recovery.

The S&P 500 rose 1.5 percent, after swinging between gains and losses earlier in the day, as weakness in large technology stocks offset gains in other parts of the market. The S&P 500 had climbed 1.2 percent on Tuesday.

Trading on Wednesday reflected optimism about a return to normal as states and national governments lift stay-at-home restrictions. Companies that will benefit as shoppers are allowed back in stores and people begin to travel again were among the best performers in the S&P 500. Nordstrom, Gap and Kohl’s each rose more than 14 percent.

Though stocks have continued their rebound from late-March lows, the rally has become less steady than it was earlier, with the S&P 500 alternating between gains and losses, as expectations for an eventual recovery from the coronavirus pandemic have squared off against the reality that the damage is still severe and likely to continue for some time.

On Wednesday, investors were cheered by the news of fiscal stimulus proposals from the European Union and Japan. In Japan, the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved more than a trillion dollars in stimulus money. In Brussels, the European Commission seemed on the verge of introducing expansive financial measures to support the bloc. Shares in Europe mostly ended higher.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

  • The American division of the bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, a sign of the damage the pandemic has inflicted on the fast-casual industry. To keep some of its stores open, the company has proposed a sale to the restaurant company Aurify Brands.

  • Social-distancing measures, put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, have hurt sales of gum and mints, the Hershey Company said on Wednesday in a regulatory filing to announce a bond offering. Demand for some products increased when the pandemic began, but have since leveled off. The company said it expected the pandemic would have a significant impact on earnings in the second quarter, when lockdown orders were put in place.

Reporting was contributed by Geneva Abdul, Patricia Cohen, Mohammed Hadi, David Gelles, David Yaffe-Bellany, Carlos Tejada and Gregory Schmidt.

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