The nation’s unemployment rate jumped more than 10 points to 14.7% in April, as the coronavirus pandemic brought the U.S. economy to a standstill, the largest one-month plunge in employment levels since the federal government began measuring such data in 1948.
Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, taking the country’s payrolls back to 2011 levels. It was 10 times higher than the previous all-time high of 1.95 million jobs lost when the military was demobilized after World War II. Employment fell sharply in all major industry sectors, with particularly heavy job losses in leisure and hospitality.
Unemployment rates rose sharply among all major worker groups. The rate was 13% for adult men, 15.5% for adult women, 31.9% for teenagers, 14.2% percent for whites, 16.7% percent for blacks, 14.5% percent for Asians, and 18.9 percent for Hispanics. Except for blacks, the rates for all groups were record highs, the BLS said.
Economists had anticipated that the monthly government unemployment figures, which explore job losses more deeply than the weekly reports on new unemployment claims, would reflect a historic erosion of jobs. Though new claims are subsiding and some states are beginning to lift lockdown orders, some experts say the worst is yet to come.
“Even with the economy slowly starting to reopen, the number of unemployed should continue to rise sharply as governments, as well as businesses that have tried but not succeeded at holding the line, are now laying off workers,” Joel Naroff, president and founder of Naroff Economic Advisors in Bucks County, said in a note to clients. He and other economists expect the unemployment rate to exceed 20%.
Worse than the Great Depression?