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'And Now, It's Gone': What the Jobs Report Will Hold

US is expected to have wiped out a decade's worth of jobs
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2020 12:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – The monthly jobs report is out at 8:30am ET Friday, when we'll find out just how grim the April employment numbers are. The March report was "shocking," without even showing the true brunt of the coronavirus pandemic's impact since the relevant surveys end mid-month. Media outlets are frequently using words like "devastating" to describe what's in store for the April report. It's not unexpected, of course, as millions upon millions have been filing for unemployment for weeks, but as the New York Times explains, it's the monthly report more so than the weekly unemployment numbers that is generally scrutinized "for evidence of how the economy is evolving." More:

  • Just how bad? CNBC reports that the report is expected to show that the US lost a record 21.5 million jobs last month. We could also see the highest unemployment rate since 1939, at the end of the Great Depression and shortly before World War II.

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  • More on that unemployment rate: Analysts are predicting it'll hit 16%, which would indeed make it the worst rate since the Great Depression. But they say it could range anywhere from 11% to 20% due to the way individuals are surveyed by the government. It also depends on whether furloughed employees identify themselves as employed or unemployed.
  • A preview: ADP's April payroll report was released Wednesday, and showed 20.2 million private-sector jobs lost.
  • Perspective: The Washington Post reports that if 22 million jobs are shown to have been lost, as some analysts expect, that's "the equivalent of all those added over the past decade" and 10 times more than the previous record, set during World War II. During the Great Recession, the worst monthly job loss was 800,000, in March 2009.
  • What the report will tell us: "It’s understood leisure and hospitality and retail have seen a large displacement of workers, and that’s apparent in the claims numbers," but the job report details showing what other industries are most affected will be very telling, says an expert. "The extent that has spread across the economy will tell us a lot, and the more it has spread, the more challenging it will be to return to normal." If the losses remain mostly contained to industries directly affected by the pandemic, recovery could be quicker.
  • But it still won't show the full picture: As NPR notes, not only have millions more jobs once again been lost since the surveys for the report were taken in mid-April, the unemployment rate "includes only people who are actively looking for work and those on temporary furlough, ignoring millions more who have been involuntarily idled by the pandemic."
  • A sobering read: The aforementioned Times piece, written by Neil Irwin, who has covered the monthly jobs report release for 13 years, is worth a read in full. "And now, in a single month, a decade’s worth of progress—measured, in my case, by waking up early on 120 or so Friday mornings and analyzing tables that showed gradual, consistent hiring—has vanished," he writes. "The employment situation summary at the start of this year was the best it had been in the 13 years I have obsessively tracked these numbers, and a lot of good things were starting to happen for a lot of people as a result. And now, it’s gone."
(Read more jobs report stories.)

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