Since the coronavirus pandemic began wreaking havoc economically in the Palmetto State in mid-March, 515,595 people have filed unemployment insurance claims, the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce reported Thursday.

That total is more than the populations of the Palmetto State’s four largest cities – Charleston, Columbia, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant – combined, based on statistics posted on worldpopulationreview.com.

The number of individuals requesting assistance in South Carolina during the seven-day period ending May 16 was 29,446.

That figure represented a decline for the fifth week in a row and was down by 3,067 from the count of 32,513 for the week ending May 9.

In Aiken County, the number of jobless claims rose, increasing to 734 during the seven-day period ending May 16. During the previous week, 639 were filed.

In Edgefield County, there were 161 requests for aid during the week ending May 16, and there were 133 in Barnwell County.

The Department of Employment and Workforce’s statistics are based on initial unemployment claims that individuals file after separation from an employer and are reported before eligibility for benefits has been determined.

The Department of Employment and Workforce has paid more than $1.35 billion in funds from state unemployment insurance and federal benefits.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that more than 2.4 million people in this country applied for unemployment benefits last week in the latest wave of layoffs caused by the pandemic.

Roughly 38.6 million people have now filed for jobless aid since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and slash their workforces, according to the United States Department of Labor.

The number of weekly applications has slowed for seven straight weeks, and last week the figures declined in 38 states and the District of Columbia, the Associated Press reported.

Yet historically, they remain immense – roughly 10 times the typical figure that prevailed before COVID-19 became a major problem.

​Dede Biles is the Aiken County government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @DBethBiles.