The total was down 810,000 from previous weeks, but the sum of five weeks has now outpaced all job gains since the financial crisis.
Economists polled by Dow Jones expected 4.3 million new requests.
With virtually all other economic indicators pointing to the worst recession since the Great Depression, jobless claims are considered the most common way to measure how conditions have been affected by the social distancing associated with the coronavirus.
The total is much worse than anything the United States has seen before, the previous week-long peak of 695,000 dating back to October 1982.
Last week’s tally was downgraded from 8,000 to 5.24 million.
Although the total for the week ended April 18 fell, the claims figure hit a new record low of just under 16 million, an increase of 4 million from the previous period. The four-week moving average jumped to 9.6 million, an increase of more than 3.5 million.
The totals remain high as individual states continue to try to cope with the massive influx of new demands. Florida alone registered 324,718 new deposits, almost double the previous week, according to unadjusted figures.
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