Some 1.43 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, pushing the number of initial jobless claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic above 54 million, new data show.

Last week marked the second consecutive week with an increase in new jobless filings, a further indication that the economic recovery from the pandemic is faltering.

“Jobs are a key part to this recovery and this shows yet again how bumpy the recovery is going to be,” said Ryan Detrick, chief investment strategist at LPL Financial.

The uptick came as surging coronavirus infections forced some states to renew lockdowns that led to massive layoffs in March and April, raising questions about how quickly the labor market can rebound from its worst collapse in a century.

New jobless claims have now remained above 1 million for 19 consecutive weeks, a level that would have been unprecedented before the pandemic caused a record spike in unemployment as government lockdown orders shuttered restaurants, theaters, hotels, and even some offices.

At 54 million, the number of people who have filed for unemployment claims during the course of the pandemic is now greater than the population of South Korea, which boasts 51 million people — and has long since surpassed the 37 million jobs lost over 18 months during the Great Recession.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that Wal-Mart has laid off hundreds of workers in store planning, logistics, merchandising and real estate as part of a larger consolidation effort, while Reuters said Exxon Mobil Corp is gearing up for job cuts to preserve an 8-percent shareholder dividend in the face of a multi-billion-dollar quarterly loss to be reported Friday.

Continuing claims, which measure sustained joblessness on a one-week lag, also climbed to about 17 million in the week ending July 18 after falling by more than 1 million the prior week, the US Department of Labor said.

The latest seasonally adjusted data came as the $600 weekly boost to jobless benefits under the federal CARES Act was due to expire Friday. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have put forward dueling proposals to extend the payments but lawmakers are reportedly deadlocked in stimulus negotiations.

“Congress has allowed the extremely successful CARES Act program to lapse without clear prospects for a legislative deal to restart the pivotal jobless aid, leaving the financial security of tens of millions of Americans hanging in the balance,” said Andrew Stettner, an unemployment insurance expert and a senior fellow at the Century Foundation think tank.