A view of a closed business in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. economy loses 20.5 million jobs, unemployment rate rises to 14.7%

Janet Nguyen May 8, 2020
A view of a closed business in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Labor Department’s April jobs report showed that the U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7%, which is the highest percentage since the Great Depression.

In 1933, the unemployment rate reached almost 25%. Last month’s rate also surpasses the Great Recession’s record high of 10%.

The period from 1929 to 1947 includes annual data of the civilian labor force age 14 and older. Beyond that year, data is monthly and refers to the civilian labor force age 16 and older.

The monthly change in employment also saw a record decline, surpassing the nearly 2 million job losses in 1945 during World War II, and the 800,000 in job losses during the Great Recession.

Other figures also show the damage caused by COVID-19, like the Labor Department’s weekly unemployment claims report. Since the crisis started, more than 33 million people have filed for unemployment. But like we’ve reported on in the past, these government figures are only a snapshot. 

The standard definition of an unemployed person is someone who hasn’t had paid work and has been actively looking for a job, but many have now been laid off or left their jobs and aren’t looking for new ones, wrote Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman. 

Along with job losses, many Americans are also facing a decline in income. About 26% of Americans who are currently working say they’ve experienced a paycut, while 36% are working fewer hours, according to our Marketplace-Edison Research poll.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

It’s still the question on everyone’s minds: What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The $600-a-week payments have ended, officially, as of July 31. For now, there is no additional federal pandemic unemployment assistance. House Democrats want to renew the $600 payments. Senate Republicans have proposed giving the unemployed 70% of their most recent salary by this October, when state unemployment offices have had time to reconfigure their computer systems to do those calculations. Until then, jobless workers would just get another $200. But, nothing has been agreed upon yet.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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