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Calamity: Unemployment hits highest rate since Great Depression


No one knows what's next

Paul Hennessy / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its April jobs report Friday morning, and the results were predictably grim: 20.5 million non-farm jobs were lost in April, bringing the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent, the highest figure recorded since the BLS started releasing the report in 1948. This is believed to be the highest figure since the Great Depression, when the BLS estimated peak unemployment at 24.9 percent in 1933.

The single month 10.3-point jump in the unemployment rate is believed to be the worst in United States history.

The job-loss figures told only part of the tale. According to the report, there were an additional 10.9 million people who were involuntarily reduced from full-time work to part-time work during the month.

Additionally, the BLS report probably widely understates true unemployment, because workers are only counted as unemployed if they have been unemployed but actively searching for work within the last four weeks, and many who have lost their jobs have not been effectively able to search for new ones due to social distancing guidelines. The report estimates that there were 9.9 million additional people who were "not in the labor force who currently want a job," but not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work in the last four weeks or unable to take a job.

There are hopes that the economy may recover if economic activity restarts soon. According to the report, "The number of unemployed persons who reported being on temporary layoff increased about ten-fold to 18.1 million in April. The number of permanent job losers increased by 544,000 to 2.0 million."

It seems, at least, that the vast majority of unemployed workers have been told by their workplaces that their unemployment is temporary; however, it is obvious that no one yet knows how the economy will look when the economy does restart, which is complicated by the fact that there is not yet a concrete timetable for that to occur.

Complicating the picture even further, some states that are vital to the economic health of the country, like Illinois and California, appear to be prepared to keep economic activity shut down for far longer than national guidelines would suggest.

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