The US economy lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April, the steepest plunge in payrolls since the Great Depression and the starkest sign yet of how the novel coronavirus pandemic is battering the world’s biggest economy.
The Labor Department’s closely watched monthly employment report on Friday also showed the unemployment rate surging to 14.7% last month, shattering the post-World War Two record of 10.8% touched in November 1982.
The bleak numbers strengthen analysts’ expectations of a slow recovery from the recession caused by the pandemic, adding to a pile of dismal data on consumer spending, business investment, trade, productivity and the housing market. The report underscores the devastation unleashed by lockdowns imposed by states and local governments in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.
The economic crisis spells trouble for President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term in the White House in November’s election. After the Trump administration was criticized for its initial reaction to the pandemic, Trump is eager to reopen the economy, despite a continued rise in COVID-19 infections and dire projections of deaths.
“Our economy is on life support now,” said Erica Groshen, a former commissioner of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. “We will be testing the waters in the next few months to see if it can emerge safely from our policy-induced coma,” added Groshen, who is now a senior extension faculty member at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.