After a record 113 straight months of hiring, the government's monthly jobs report Friday is expected to show that the American jobs machine came to a sudden halt in March as a result of the coronavirus. Economists have forecast that the government will say employers shed about 150,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate rose from a half-century low of 3.5% to 3.9%, according to FactSet. But the jobs figure will vastly understate the magnitude of last month's losses because the government surveyed employers before the heaviest layoffs struck in the past two weeks, the AP reports. Nearly 10 million Americans have since applied for unemployment benefits, far more than for any corresponding period on record.
Still, some job cuts likely happened earlier in the month, when most economists think businesses began clamping down on hiring. The job loss for March will underscore the head-snapping speed with which the economy has unraveled after nearly a decade in which employers added nearly 23 million jobs. As recently as February, employers added 273,000 jobs. "Four years of job gains have evaporated in the span of two weeks," says Daniel Zhao, an economist at the jobs website Glassdoor. The layoffs will continue to mount. Some economists have forecast that 20 million jobs will be lost by the end of April, swelling the unemployment rate as high as 15% and wiping out the bulk of the past decade's gains. That unemployment rate would be the worst since the 1930s.
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