May 4, 2020 - Economy & Business

How April's jobs report will help to size up the economy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

April's U.S. jobs report will certainly reveal unprecedented losses after 30.3 million people filed unemployment claims in just six weeks, but it will also contain a number of other data points that will provide important context about the real hit to the economy and what a recovery might look like.

Why it matters: The monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) nonfarm payrolls report uses a combination of household surveys and employer records to more accurately assess the state of U.S. unemployment.

What to watch: Among the big questions analysts will be looking to answer are how many workers not counted as employed are still tied to an employer, how successful were the government's efforts at mitigating the economic shock, and how were those who remained employed affected?

  • Bank of America Global Research analysts expect average weekly hours worked will "plunge to a new record low of 33.5, though this will have a side effect of boosting wage growth by 1.0% [month over month] or 3.9% [year over year] as impacted workers will skew towards low-to-medium wages."
  • According to the latest report from the BLS, the number of workers placed on a part-time schedule as a result of reduced work or business conditions jumped 1.3 million (46%) between February and March.

Between the lines: A Gallup poll taken April 13–19 found 10% of Americans were temporarily laid off from work as a result of the coronavirus, and an additional 2% said they had permanently lost their job. A total of 26% said they had lost income and 15% reported reductions in hours.

  • The impacts were more pronounced among those in lower income brackets, with 32% of respondents whose annual household income (before the pandemic) was less than $36,000 reporting a loss of income.

The intrigue: The CARES Act's Paycheck Protection Program was designed to keep workers tied to their employers. But small business owners have complained that the program is poorly designed, and because of increased unemployment eligibility and benefits from the government, it could worsen relationships.

The big picture: A separate Gallup poll of 540 adults from April 1–12 found that 25% of employed Americans think they are likely to be laid off in the next year.

  • However, among those who have been laid off, 85% believe it is "likely" that they will be able to return to their job once the crisis has ended, with 60% saying that it is "very likely."

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

About 40.7 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic began, including 2.1 million more claims filed from last week.

Why it matters: Even as states reopen their economies, Americans are still seeking relief. Revised data out Thursday also showed U.S. economy shrunk by an annualized 5% in the first quarter — worse than the initially estimate of 4.8%.

D.C. chef: Restaurants need more time to spend PPP money

Photo: Axios screenshot

Restaurants need more time to spend money they've received from the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program to ensure that the loans are forgivable, Kwame Onwuachi, owner and head chef of Kith and Kin, a D.C.-based restaurant, said during an Axios digital event.

Why it matters: Onwuachi said small restaurants are reaching the end of the eight-week time limit to spend the money. If they do not spend the money, the loans may not be forgiven.

U.S. coronavirus death toll crosses 100,000

Data: Johns Hopkins University; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a terrible milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: The death toll from COVID-19 now stands at more than 34 times the number of people who died on 9/11.