WASHINGTON - A further 2.1m people in the US filed for unemployment claims last week, bringing the total to more than 40 million since mid-March.

Overall, 40.7 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the last 10 weeks, a quarter of the American workforce, according to new data from the US labor department.

Although the new total represents the eighth consecutive fall in weekly claims since the peak of 6.9 million in March, the level is still far above previous highs.

In contrast, the highest monthly jobless claims figure during the 2008-2009 financial crisis was 800,000.

The dire new figures came as the US passed another unwelcome milestone, with 100,000 coronavirus deaths now confirmed in the country.

Despite some non-essential businesses beginning to reopen, the weekly figure only showed a small drop from the previous total of 2.4 million.

However, in rare glimpse of hope, jobless continuous claims, a record of those who have been collecting benefits for two weeks or more, fell 4 million to 21 million.