The Worst Jobs Day Ever

Driven by the COVID-19 shutdown, April marked the greatest job loss in American history. The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.7 percent, and employers cut 20.5 million jobs.

Those figures are heart-wrenching. But as awful as they are, they do not fully capture workers’ hardships. To be counted as unemployed, people must be available for work and actively seeking it. With schools closed, job opportunities withering, and social distancing the new norm, many displaced workers don’t satisfy those requirements. Instead, they officially show up as having left the labor force.


From February to April, the labor force shrank by 8 million people. Add that to the more than 17 million increase in unemployment, and 25 million Americans are no longer employed. More than 61 percent of Americans had jobs in February. In April, only 51 percent did, the lowest level since records began in 1948.

In addition, millions of Americans still have jobs but have seen their hours cut. From February to April, the number of people reporting that they work part-time for economic reasons rose by 6.6 million. That spike happened even though part-time workers have lost jobs at a particularly sharp rate. Unemployment among people who usually work part-time rose from 3.7 percent in February to 24.5 percent in April, while unemployment for full-time workers rose from 3.5 percent to 12.9 percent.

Americans from all walks of life are suffering in the great shutdown. But the employment damage is not distributed equally. As often happens in downturns, highly educated workers have fared better than those with less education. Among workers with a college degree, unemployment increased from 1.9 percent in February to 8.4 percent in April. High school graduates with no college education, however, have seen unemployment spike from 3.6 percent to 17.3 percent.

Teenage unemployment is now almost 32 percent, far more than for older workers. Unemployment among Hispanic workers has increased more than for white, black, and Asian workers. Women experienced a larger increase than did men.

We are living through remarkable times. The United States has not experienced unemployment at these levels since the Great Depression. The one bit of good news is that many job losses may be temporary. Indeed, a record 78 percent of unemployed workers report they are on temporary layoff.

Unfortunately, many jobs will be permanently lost. To date, policymakers have rightly focused on economy-wide disaster relief. Keeping families and employers financially afloat is essential for an eventual recovery.

When we start down the path to recovery, policymakers should assess how severe the longer-term damage will be and consider policies that accelerate the return to full employment.

This post originally appeared on the Urban Institute’s Urban Wire blog.

One thought on “The Worst Jobs Day Ever”

  1. D

    I am not near as pessimistic as you and your data.

    I m a principal partner in a cre portfolio of about 600k sf of retail props in a 1+ hr drive of the capital. I have given no rent abatement. Zero. I ve deferred a bunch of rent tho: 25% for April; 40% for may. I have about 120 tenants. I ll lose 3-4 when this unnecessary fauci made hell is over. Hair salons, marginal restaurants. Maybe 10,000 SF total. 1.5% of all my tenants. Big effin deal; good riddance frankly; perpetual whiners all……..meanwhile, I continue to make progress on the biggest retail lease deal of my life and am seeing other lease negotiations that we put on pause now resuscitate.

    I have a lot of middle class working class friends and kin in Ohio, western Pa, RI, and Ma. No one has lost a job. All are either working on site or from home. They never missed a beat……….my kin who are doctors, however, are seeing across the board paycuts of 15-30%. I have 8 sibs, nephews or cousins who are docs in ma, oh and fl.

    I see a prudent “mimic Sweden” strategy replacing the moronic lockdown happening now for america. I see a gradual recovery starting soon. I see a much needed winnowing of poor performing retailers. I see a moderate cv19 driven acceleration in the amazon driven creative destruction in retail real estate wherein hard/ soft good retailers are dying or downsizing and reinventing themselves.

    One of us is wrong. Indeed, Might be me; Maybe I m just living the dead cat bounce. That said, on march 15, I heard a story from my son about 30 of his pals coming back from college semester study away spain in early march. The plane landed in dulles. At dulles, all 30 kids tested positive for cv19. One actually showed symptoms……..from that I reckoned that a) lots more peeps in the world had cv than fauci then thought; b) cv is not near as deadly as fauci thought and doesn’t kill the healthy; and c) everybody else on that wide body boeing now has cv……….from that story I reasoned that we are going to get cv and the lockdown recommendation was a panicked decision by a overly cautious scientist. I ve noticed that scientists and physicians are often very smart in their special niche but very poor at strategic thinking and business…….Trump should have ignored fauci and followed the Sweden model.

    If I m right (and some smart folks at Stanford agree with me), alarmist (and probably progressive) staticisians have a lot of needless destruction to answer for and lost credibility. The entire cv19 alarmist scam might give proper impetuous to review all the climate change alarmist projections as well……another silver lining I hope is the coming collapse of the CCP. May we help make that happen swiftly.

    I look forward to your always well thunk out counters.

    My best to esther and feore on this bleak mothers day. The america needs wise managers and deadly soldiers.

    Best regards,
    Marc Geffroy
    Marc Geffroy
    Seneca Properties
    301-651-6385 cell

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