What the worst jobs report ever means for you

With over 20 million jobs gone, who's left standing?

May 11, 2020 | Editorial | Jobs | Government | Business
Article headline image

The US Department of Labor Statistics is currently hiring anyone capable of finding good news about last month.

April showers were more of a downpour

20.5 million jobs were lost last month, leading to an unemployment rate of 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression (when it was estimated to be roughly 25%).

Including March, a total of 30.3 million jobs were lost since pandemic-induced shutdowns began across the United States. And this isn't including the estimated 3.2 million people who applied for unemployment benefits in early May.

Which industries were hit hardest?

Leisure and Hospitality accounted for 7.7 million of those jobs, leading to an unemployment rate within the industry of nearly 40%.

The Education and Health industry also took a beating, as 2.5 million jobs went off their payrolls, while both the Business + Professional Services (lawyers, accountants, temporary workers) and Retail Services shed 2.1 million jobs apiece.

Even Government jobs, long considered among the most stable, fell by nearly a million in April.

Are any safe?

Ironically, Financial Activities have seen fewer job losses, but even that industry's rate of unemployment is 150% higher than it was this time last year.

The Information industry (down 200,000 jobs) and Mining/Logging (down 50,000) are relatively unscathed, as their work largely allows them to be socially distanced (across the interweb and acres of land, respectively).

Utility workers lost only 3,000 jobs, perhaps showing no matter what happens, the lights and faucets need to stay on.

Still, some industries are growing... and hiring

Of the many different job sectors, some of which are highly specific, only six reported any job growth at all.

General Merchandise has seen the greatest growth, adding nearly 100,000 jobs over the last month as major industry players Dollar General and Walmart plan to hire tens of thousands more workers to stock shelves for the house-bound.

What these numbers don't include

Much of the gig economy. These figures are from a survey of employers that didn't include many independent contractors, including Uber and Lyft drivers. With full-time gig economy work comprising as much as 10% of the American workforce, and the hit to gig businesses well-documented, the unemployment figures are likely far worse.

Those incorrectly identifying as employed, but absent from work. Including those individuals alone could bring the unemployment rate as high as 19%.

Any May flowers... or a silver lining in this dark cloud?

Historically, the effect of recessions is jobs that disappear take years to return, or for new ones to spring up in their place.

The hope, with the unique nature of this crisis, is that upon reopening many jobs will return quickly, depending on how safe consumers feel.

The proportion of furloughed workers, who account for 18 out of 20 million lost jobs, also suggests that this bleak state may be temporary, given that 90% of the unemployed don't define their job loss as "permanent."



Bank. Save. Invest.