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Coronavirus crisis sends US unemployment rate to 14.7%

The United States economy suffered its biggest labor market shock on record last month, as government officials confirmed Covid-19 eliminated 20.5 million jobs.

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Coronavirus crisis sends US unemployment rate to 14.7%

The United States unemployment rate has hit 14.7%, a level not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. A total of 20.5 million jobs have been wiped out since the coronavirus pandemic hit the nation according to government figures released this Friday.

Nearly all the job growth achieved during the 11-year recovery from the financial meltdown has now been lost in one month. Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 3.8 million people and killed nearly 270,000, including over 75,000 in the U.S., according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University based on official data.

The unemployment report indicated that the vast majority of April’s job losses, roughly 90%, are considered temporary, a result of businesses that were forced to suddenly close but hope to reopen and recall their laid-off workers.

The collapse of the job market has occurred with stunning speed. As recently as February, the unemployment rate was a more than 50-year low of 3.5%, and employers had added jobs for a record 9 1/2 years. In March, unemployment was just 4.4%. The last time unemployment was this high was 1939 at the very end of the Depression.

When will the US recover?

Economists worry that it will take years to recover all the jobs lost. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office expects the jobless rate to be 9.5% by the end of 2021. Minorities and poor people suffered the most from the economic shutdown. Job losses were especially severe for Latinos, whose unemployment rate leaped to 18.9% from 6% in March.

Though some businesses are beginning to reopen in certain states, factories, hotels, restaurants, resorts, sporting venues, movie theaters and many small businesses are still largely shuttered.

The job losses reported Friday are a different figure. It captures just five weeks, it is based on a survey of businesses and households, and it is a net figure, that is, it takes into account the hiring that some companies, such as Amazon and many grocery stores, have done.