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COVID-19

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

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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