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U.S. economy loses 701,000 jobs, unemployment rises to 4.4%

Janet Nguyen Apr 3, 2020
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The Labor Department’s March jobs report reveals that the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 4.4% and the economy lost 701,000 jobs, breaking a more than 9-year streak of job gains.

Here’s a look at how employment has changed since the start of the Great Recession:

In the prior 12 months, non-farm employment growth had averaged 196,000 per month, according to the report.

While the monthly jobs report is typically a good indication of how the economy is doing, these latest numbers don’t even capture the full scope of the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s because these latest figures are based on surveys of employers and households that were conducted March 7–14.

In a more up-to-date snapshot, the Labor Department reported yesterday that a record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment claims last week. (Before the spread of COVID-19, the highest number on record had been 695,000 during a week in 1982). 

In February, the unemployment rate had dipped to 3.5% — the lowest it’s been in more than 50 years. Economists expect the unemployment rate will soon surpass the Great Recession high of 10%.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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