donald trump
US President Donald Trump (Image: AP/Alex Brandon)

The grim toll from the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to break America.

As it's confirmed that there are now at least 236,000 cases of COVID-19 in the world-leading US, while at least 5,600 people have died, the rising economic cost was revealed with a record 6.65 million people filed for unemployment claims last week.

The number was far worse than forecasters expected. The average forecast from the market was 3.7 million, which itself would have been a new record. California had the highest number of claims with 878,727, followed by Pennsylvania and New York.