Washington – The coronavirus crisis has sent the U.S. unemployment rate surging to 14.7%, a level last seen when the country was in the throes of the Depression and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was assuring Americans that the only thing to fear was fear itself.
The Labor Department said Friday that 20.5 million jobs vanished in April in the worst monthly loss on record, triggered by the coast-to-coast shutdowns of factories, stores, offices and other businesses. Unemployment is now at its highest point since 1939.
And because of government errors and the particular way it measures the job market, the true picture is even worse than the numbers suggest.
The breathtakingly swift losses are certain to intensify the push-pull across the U.S. over how and when to ease the stay-at-home restrictions and the social-distancing rules. And they rob President Donald Trump of the ability to point to a strong economy as he runs for reelection.
“The jobs report from hell is here,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, “one never seen before and unlikely to be seen again barring another pandemic or meteor hitting the earth.”
Stocks rallied on Wall Street in the morning when it turned out the report wasn’t quite as horrific as economists had forecast. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 300 points, or 1.3%.