COVID-19 Update: Unemployment Reaches Great Depression Levels

May 11, 2020

The U.S. unemployment rate increased to 14.7% in April, the highest level since the Great Depression, according to the latest unemployment numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor. More than 20 million people lost their jobs last month as businesses closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, eliminating a decade of job gains in a single month, United Press International reports. Three months ago, the unemployment rate was 3.5%, the lowest in 50 years.

The underemployment rate, which counts discouraged job seekers and part-time workers who want full-time employment, increased from less than 9% in March to 23% in April.

The job market declined across all sectors, especially in leisure and hospitality, which lost 7.7 million positions—almost half of the entire industry.

Small businesses have been hit especially hard. Payroll provider ADP said its small business customers slashed more than 11 million jobs in April as they were either forced to close or suffered steep revenue losses, Associated Press reports. Nearly 30% of 500 companies surveyed for a U.S. Chamber of Commerce-MetLife report said they had closed in April. Almost a third of businesses surveyed said they applied or tried to apply for loans under the U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program, with only 9% receiving loan money. Less than half (48%) said they were comfortable with their cash flow, down from 80% before the coronavirus outbreak hit.

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