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Labor Dept.: U.S. economy lost 20.5M jobs in April, unemployment near 15%

By Don Jacobson
Labor Dept.: U.S. economy lost 20.5M jobs in April, unemployment near 15%
The West Elm furniture store is seen boarded up on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 12, as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

May 8 (UPI) -- The United States economy shed more than 20 million jobs last month, the greatest month-to-month decline in history, the Labor Department said Friday in its monthly employment analysis.

The department said the job market for April declined by 20.5 million positions across all major sectors, particularly in leisure and hospitality -- which shed 7.7 million positions, or almost half of the entire industry.

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The report detailed about 2 million lost jobs in the retail sector, 1.3 million in manufacturing and 1.4 million in heathcare, where elective and non-essential work has been suspended.

"The changes in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it," the report states.

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Unemployment rose to nearly 15 percent, the department said, a 10.3 percent increase over March. Just three months ago, the rate was 3.5 percent, the lowest in a half-century.

Most economists predicted U.S. jobs to decline by about 22 million in April and unemployment at 15.2 percent. A month ago, the department reported just 700,000 job losses for March, but analysts expected April's to be a better economic reflection of the coronavirus impact.

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The underemployment rate, which includes counts "discouraged workers" and part-timers who want full-time employment, surged from less than 9 percent in March to 23 percent in April.

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The labor force participation rate fell to 60.2 percent, the lowest since 1973 -- and among men 25 to 54 it fell to an all-time low of 86.4 percent.

Women and minorities were most affected by job cuts last month. Unemployment among women climbed to 15.5 percent and for Hispanics and Latinos it was nearly 19 percent. The rate was 16.7 percent among black Americans, compared with 14.2 percent for whites.

Friday's report came one day after the department said 3.2 million more U.S. workers filed new unemployment claims last week. More than 33 million Americans have now lost their jobs over the past few weeks, the quickest seven-week jobless spike in history. What's more, that figure is a low estimate -- as not all of the newly unemployed have filed for benefits, whether it's due to their job conditions or overwhelmed filing systems in some states.

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In its payroll report Wednesday, ADP and Moody's Analytics said 20.2 million jobs were lost in April -- most in the leisure and hospitality industry.

"I think the real number is around 23 or 24 percent," Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari told NBC's Today on Thursday. "It's devastating."

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Kashkari said he expects "a long, gradual recovery."

"The sharp rise in layoffs over the last seven weeks has crushed the labor market, consumer confidence and retail spending," added Robert Hughes of the American Institute for Economic Research. "Expect extraordinarily weak economic reports over the next several months."

There have been signs for optimism, however. U.S. stocks have performed well in recent weeks and advancements in finding a coronavirus vaccine have led some experts to predict a quicker economic rebound than originally anticipated.

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Protesters rally urging the reopening of California at the Capitol in Sacramento on May 1. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

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