The monthly jobs report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning only confirmed what everyone already knew: the American economy is in free fall, as 20.5 million jobs disappeared in April.
The unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent, the highest since the modern series began in January 1948, and the highest since the Great Depression. Jobs losses equaled 20.5 million in April, also a record. The pain was spread across all major worker groups: men, women, teenagers, whites, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics. The rates were the highest ever recorded for all demographics save African-Americans.
The labor participation rate decreased by 2.5 percentage points last month, to 60.2 percent, the lowest in 47 years.
The worst-hit sector of the economy, not surprisingly, is leisure and hospitality, which is to say restaurants and hotels, most of which are shut down. The decline in jobs reached 7.7 million, a staggering 47 percent of total employment in the sector.
Despite the pandemic, 1.4 million jobs disappeared in the health sector, mostly in the offices of dentists, doctors, and other health care providers.
Hourly earnings for those still employed, however, rose 4.7 percent to 30.01. In other words, unemployment hit hardest for those earning less.
The economy is slowly beginning to reopen, so the next jobs report due out on June 5 should be better. But how fast the economy will return to normal is anyone’s guess.