WASHINGTON (AP/KDKA) — More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, far exceeding a record high set just last week, a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.

The job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world.

The figure for last week is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week. The surging layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15% this month, above the previous record of 10.8% set during a deep recession in 1982.

Many employers are slashing their payrolls to try to stay afloat because their revenue has collapsed, especially at restaurants, hotels, gyms, movie theaters and other venues that depend on face-to-face interaction. Auto sales have sunk, and factories have closed.

Stay-at-home orders, imposed by most U.S. states, have intensified pressure on businesses, most of which face rent, loans and other bills that must be paid.

On Monday, KDKA talked to people who were trying to file claims but only heard a busy signal on the other end of the phone line. One man said he called 400 times and didn’t get through.

State officials within the Department of Labor and Industry tell KDKA their unemployment compensation mainframe system experienced technical issues for most of the day on Monday.

We took your questions on why you hadn’t gotten your PIN numbers to the department. Spokesperson Penny Ickes said it was not a system-wide problem, but only impacted the people who were trying to file those biweekly claims.

Ickes said no one will lose eligibility for any weeks because of the issues and the claims can still be filed through Friday.

It’s not the only issue people have experienced. Numerous people tell KDKA every time you call the number to file a claim, it’s busy.

“It’s definitely tough when you live paycheck to paycheck, to be honest with you, so it’s really a scary waiting game right now,” said Brandi Smith who’s out of work and waiting for her benefits.

Meanwhile Zach Bruce said it took him several days and hundreds of attempts before finally his claim was accepted and now he’s just waiting for his check.

“(I’m) relieved I can finally sit back and relax, not worry about so much. It sucks we are going through all this, but at least I know I’m good financially,” Bruce said.

For those like Smith who are still waiting, we do have information from the state on time frames. If you already filed a new claim and are waiting on your PIN in the mail, below is the new processing information:

  • If you opened your claim between March 15 and 21 – you should have received your PIN to file for benefits beginning Sunday, March 29. If you did not receive your PIN in time to file on Monday, you may file any day through Friday, April 3. If you do not receive your PIN in time to file for benefits by April 3, we will make accommodations for filing and will update you accordingly.
  • If you opened your claim between March 22 and March 28 – your first day to file will be Sunday, April 5.

The state acknowledges the long wait times and are pushing people with internet access to apply for benefits online at www.uc.pa.gov.

“The unemployment compensation system has been overwhelmed, just a lot of calls. Since March 15, we’ve had close to a million new claims,” said Governor Tom Wolf.

Ickes tells KDKA there is a lot of information posted on social media platforms and the website, but you still have a question to email uchelp@pa.gov.

Also this state guide “Responding to COVID-19” has resources for Pennsylvanians when it comes to financial help and food assistance.

As for the extra $600 for unemployment benefits, it will not be processed for a few more weeks because it is part of the federal stimulus plan.

(TM and © Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)