Chart of the Month: A Decade of Job Gains Wiped Out in a Single Month

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics data as of April 2020

Market Observations

This month we got another glimpse into the economic damage the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed on the U.S. economy. While the weekly data on unemployment filings has foreshadowed the catastrophic nature of the job losses, the April jobs report confirmed just how brutal it has been. In a single month, more than 20 million jobs have vanished. With the unemployment rate soaring to 14.7%, it is at the highest level since the Great Depression. Even worse, the unemployment rate would have been 5.0% higher if 6.4 million who were absent from work for “other reasons” were counted as unemployed. This is astonishing, considering that just two months ago the unemployment rate stood at 3.5%, a 50-year low. Job losses were widespread in the recent report, with reductions occurring across every sector of the U.S. economy. If that is not catastrophically bad enough, wages also skyrocketed during the period. The surprising gain was not tied to actual salary increases, but rather reflects how many of the recent job losses were concentrated among the lower-income, service industry workers. The magnitude of these numbers and the speed at which it is happening is truly stunning.

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