The U.S. economy lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April, the steepest plunge in payrolls since the Great Depression, laying bare both the economic and human tragedy wrought by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Â shattering the post-World War Two record of 10.8% touched in November 1982. It underscored the depth of the recession caused by lockdowns imposed by states and local governments in mid-March to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.
Though many of the jobs are likely to be recouped as large parts of the country reopen, the labor market carnage spells trouble for President Donald Trumpâ€™s bid for a second term in the White House in Novemberâ€™s election. The Trump administration has been criticized for its initial reaction to the pandemic.
Close to 76,000 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in the United States, with confirmed infections nearing 1.3 million, according to a Reuters tally. With an eye on the Nov. 3 election, Trump is pushing to reopen the economy even as health experts are issuing dire projections of deaths.
â€œIf there is a silver-lining in todayâ€™s dismal jobs report, it is in the realization that the economy cannot possibly get any worse than it is right now,â€ said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. â€œJoblessness can only diminish from this point forward as many states start reopening.â€
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the survey of establishments would show nonfarm payrolls diving by 22 million. Data for March was revised to show 870,000 jobs lost instead of 701,000 as previously reported. A record streak of job growth dating to October 2010 ended in March.
The jaw-dropping job losses in the last two months pushed nonfarm employment to its lowest level since February 2011. Job losses were across the board, with leisure and hospitality industry payrolls plunging 7.7 million. Restaurants and bars accounted for nearly three-quarters of the decline.
Ironically, healthcare employment declined by 1.4 million jobs, with decreases at offices of dentists, doctors, other health practitioners and hospitals.
Dentists have closed offices, while general practitioners and hospitals have seen a reduction in patient visits as people stay at home in fear of contracting the highly contagious virus. Hospitals have also suspended elective surgeries to focus on the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The Laborâ€™s Departmentâ€™s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which compiles the employment report, said the response rate for the establishment survey had returned to a normal range last month. But it changed estimation methods to better account for the historic number of temporary or permanent business closures.