Bureau of Labor Statistics April Data—Economic Freefall

Ellen L. Donaghy, SilkRoad Technology
Article by: Ellen Donaghy

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released their jobs report and the news is bad.

Basically, the economy is in freefall. The unemployment rate is sitting at 14.7%, dangerously close to the Depression-era levels at 25%. The BLS has only been keeping data since 1948, though, and this is the all-time highest unemployment figure since 1948. At this point, 23.1 million Americans are unemployed, and increase of 15.9 million people in April alone. Of the total unemployed, 18.1 million jobs were lost to “temporary layoffs,” with 2 million being permanent job losses. Here’s how those losses play out across industries:

Leisure and hospitality was hit the hardest, losing 7.7 million jobs.

  • 5.5 million jobs came from the food and beverage industry
  • Arts, entertainment and recreation dropped by 1.3 million
  • Accommodation industry lost 839,000 jobs

Education and Health Care lost 2.5 million jobs.

  • 1.4 million jobs were lost in healthcare, BUT, those are mainly physicians in private practice, such as dentists, physicians offices and non-essential specialists. Hospitals and less specialized health care orgs are still hiring as fast as they possibly can.
  • Social assistance jobs, such as day care and family services, lost 651,000 jobs
  • Employment in private education dropped 457,000 jobs

Professional and business services lost 2.1 million jobs, mainly in temporary workers (842,000) and building services (259,000).

Retail trade lost 2.1 million jobs as well, which is unsurprising since everything is closed.

  • Clothing and accessory stores: 740,000
  • Motor vehicle parts and dealers: 345,000
  • Miscellaneous stores: 264,000
  • Furniture and home furnishings: 209,000
  • HOWEVER, big box stores, warehouse clubs and supercenters gained 93,000 jobs. So your Costcos, your Walmarts, your Targets, your Home Depots are all still open and thriving.

Manufacturing dropped by 1.3 million, which is to be expected considering retail stores are largely shuttered.

  • Durable goods made up the largest part with 914,000 job losses
  • Motor vehicle parts lost 382,000 jobs
  • Fabricated metals lost 109,000 jobs
  • Non-durable goods manufacturing, such as food, soaps, paper goods, lost 416,000 jobs.

Miscellaneous services, including personal and laundry services, lost 1.3 million jobs.

Government employment lost 980,000 jobs in in April, with a whopping 801,000 jobs coming from local government. Public education is slotted into this category, so school closures make up a significant portion of those jobs lost.

Construction fell by 975,000 jobs in April, in what should have been the beginning of peak hiring season.

  • Specialty trade contractors are down by 691,000, while private building construction lost 206,000 jobs

Transportation and warehousing has been impacted significantly by travel restrictions and losses in manufacturing, shedding 584,000 jobs. Ground transit lost 185,000 jobs and air transport lost 141,000.

Wholesale trade lost 363,000 jobs. This is largely the result of losses in manufacturing, as well as retail store closures.

Financial services lost 262,000 jobs, mainly in real estate and rental leasing.

Information employment lost 254,000 jobs, driven mainly by 217,000 job losses in motion picture production and sound recording.

Finally, Mining lost 46,000 jobs.

The upshot here is that no one is doing well. But, over three-quarters of these job losses are temporary, so we can see that there’s a recovery coming, unlike previous recessions. The real challenge for economic recovery is going to be how the economy reopens, the effect that has on people’s health and how that impacts consumer confidence. If we reopen too quickly, we’ll see another spike in COVID diagnoses, which will cause consumer panic and a spending freeze, followed by another round of job losses.

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