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Coronavirus Unemployment Hits 14.7 Percent, Highest Since Great Depression

People wait in line to file for unemployment amid the coronavirus outbreak in Fort Smith, Ark., April 6, 2020. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

U.S. unemployment hit 14.7 percent in April amid the coronavirus pandemic, the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday that the country lost 20.5 million jobs in April, “with particularly heavy job losses in leisure and hospitality.” The 10.3-point increase the unemployment rate from March to April is the largest ever recorded, and marks the first time in over a decade that unemployment has hit double digits. The previous worst jobless rate since the Great Depression, when unemployment hit 25 percent, was 10.8 percent in 1982.

In a live reaction to the numbers, President Trump was not shocked, telling Fox News in an interview that “even the Democrats aren’t blaming me for that” as the country battles Covid-19.

“It’s totally expected, it’s no surprise,” Trump stated. “. . . What I can do: I’ll bring it back.”

The labor force participation rate hit its lowest point since 1973, falling to 60.2 percent. Among different industries, employment in leisure and hospitality was nearly cut in half, falling by 7.7 million. Despite the virus, the healthcare industry lost 1.4 million jobs, primarily among dentists and private practitioners. One bright spot in the report showed that of those unemployed, 18.1 million — 78 percent — said that their layoff was temporary.

But BLS revealed at the conclusion of its report that “the overall unemployment rate would have been almost 5 percentage points higher than reported” had individuals who were classified as employed, but who were not working, been included.

“As was the case in March, special instructions sent to household survey interviewers called for all employed persons absent from work due to coronavirus-related business closures to be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff,” the report reads. “However, it is apparent that not all such workers were so classified.”

On Thursday, the Labor Department said that over 33 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March.

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