May 8, 2020 - Economy & Business

The month we fell off a cliff

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

America's unemployment rate is now at its highest since the Great Depression, and it's likely a major underestimate.

The big picture: More than 30 million have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus lockdowns started — the government said there were 20.5 million net jobs lost in April alone — but the fallout has been far from equal.

Women made up a bigger share of April's job losses (55%) than men.

  • That's a complete reversal from recent recessions; usually men bear the brunt of job losses at first and female payroll share rises," Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at Evercore ISI, points out.

America's less educated workers, who were just beginning to reap the benefits of the flourishing labor market — as we've reported in the past — are losing work at about four times the rate of those with college degrees, per the Washington Post.

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Black and Hispanic/Latino workers "finally started to see significant wage gains [over the past two years] — and those are going to get wiped out," Christopher Hayes, a professor at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, tells Axios.

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Between the lines: Nearly 4 in 5 people who lost work said their job loss was temporary, which shores up hope that businesses might be quick to hire these workers back once the economy reopens. That's if hirers need as many hands-on-deck as they did before the pandemic.

  • But economists worry the recovery will be just as uneven as in past recessions, with the most vulnerable groups still on the sidelines while others recoup work.
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