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

Janet Nguyen May 8, 2020
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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

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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