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U.S. Jobless Rate Surges to 14.7% in April

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The U.S. unemployment rate surged in April to 14.7%, the highest rate since January 1948, and more than three times the rate a month earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of unemployed swelled to 23.1 million, up 45% from the number in March.

Almost two-thirds of unemployed workers in April had lost their jobs during the previous five weeks, an indication of the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biggest losses were in leisure and hospitality, which lost 7.65 million jobs. Retailers cut 2.1 million jobs and health care institutions 1.44 million due to declines in non-COVID visits and elective procedures.

The labor force participation rate fell 2.5 percentage points  to 60.2 percent, the lowest rate since January 1973.

Despite the very weak jobs report, U.S. stock indexes opened about 1% higher, with investors seeming to focus instead instead on news that the U.S. and China were continuing to lift trade restrictions.

“The stock market is looking past these horrific numbers with the hope of recovery ahead,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “That will require some best-case scenarios emerging including the discovery of an effective vaccine sooner rather than later to help us put this multifaceted disaster behind us.”

The weak job market is expected to continue.

In the meantime the job market is “set to remain weak over coming months,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “Claims remain high and even as states reopen, we think virus containment measures will restrict activity and layoffs will continue as a result.”

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