20.5 million jobs lost, unemployment at 14.7$


The coronavirus has the US economy coughing up a lung.

The nation lost a record 20.5 million jobs in April as the pandemic caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the feds said Friday.

The mass layoffs sent the unemployment rate up to 14.7 percent — the highest recorded since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking it in the 1940s.

The job losses reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics destroyed the previous record of nearly 2 million, set in September 1945 in the wake of World War II. The largest monthly loss during the Great Recession was just 800,000 in March 2009.

A man sleeps in front of closed shopfronts in what would be a normally busy fashion district in Los Angeles, California.
A man sleeps in front of closed shopfronts in what would be a normally busy fashion district in Los Angeles, CaliforniaFrederic J Brown/AFP via Getty Images

“Today’s jobs report shows that shutting down the US economy will create deep and long-lasting scars for America’s labor force,” said Josh Lipsky, director of programs and policy at the Atlantic Council think tank.

Still, the numbers were slightly better than the gloomy expectations of economists, who predicted a loss of 22 million jobs and 16 percent unemployment.

This was the first edition of the closely watched monthly report to broadly capture the impact of the coronavirus crisis, which has forced businesses across the country to shut down to protect the public’s health.

It illustrates how quickly the pandemic has crippled a US economy that was humming along nicely just two months ago, when unemployment was sitting at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent before the nation’s nine-year hiring streak came to an abrupt end in March.

A woman sitting on a stoop reading a book in the sun is seen reflected by a closed clothing store's window on West Broadway

But the labor force could be even weaker than the data lets on, experts warned. The unemployment rate doesn’t capture the millions of people who weren’t looking for work. And issues with how certain workers were classified may have depressed the rate by nearly 5 percentage points, according to the feds — suggesting it could actually be higher than 19 percent.

“It doesn’t come close to capturing the reality, which is probably much worse,” Curt Long, chief economist and vice president of research at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, told The Post.

Layoffs struck every industry that the feds track, from manufacturing and construction to white-collar sectors like finance. But more than a quarter of the job losses were concentrated in restaurants and bars, which shed 5.5 million gigs, the feds said.

And 1.4 million health care jobs were lost in the middle of a public health crisis, most of them in dentists’ and doctors’ offices, the report shows.

Average hourly earnings on private non-farm payrolls ironically jumped more than 4 percent in April to $30.01 — but only because so many low-wage workers lost their jobs.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with wages having gone up,” said Daniel Alpert, a managing partner at Westwood Capital who helped create the US Private Sector Job Quality Index.

“You lost all of these front-line consumer-facing jobs that were in retail, leisure and hospitality,” Alpert told The Post.

A trickle of grim economic data hinted at the devastation manifested in Friday’s report. More than 33 million Americans sought unemployment benefits in less than two months, and the nation’s gross domestic product suffered its sharpest contraction since the Great Recession in the first quarter.

While some of the jobs may return — 18.1 million people reported being on “temporary layoff” in April, the feds said — it’s unclear how quickly Americans will get back to work even as states ease measures aimed at controlling the coronavirus.

“We expect that even after the restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, there’s still going to be residual lack of demand and consumer activity that’s going to weigh on the overall economy,” Long told The Post. “It’s not simply a case of just flipping the switch and everything gets back to normal.”

Credit: Source link