U.S. Unemployment Rate Hits 14.7% — the Highest Level Since the Great Depression

The United States unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent in April, the highest rate and largest increase ever seen in a month since the country started keeping track in 1948, the U.S. Department of Labor said Friday.

The April report found that employment fell by 20.5 million as the coronavirus shut down the economy and decimated various industries, with leisure and hospitality taking the biggest hits.

When the month began, there were 7.2 million unemployed people in the U.S. — and by its end, there were 23.1 million, an increase that reflects “the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the report said.

Adult women were hit about two percentage points higher than adult men (15.5 percent vs. 13 percent), while teenagers faced even higher rates, at 31.9 percent.

Meanwhile, Hispanics were also hit particularly hard, with an 18.9 percent unemployment rate. Blacks came next, with 16.7 percent, followed by Asians with 14.5 percent and whites with 14.2 percent.

All of those rates, except for those of black people, represent record highs for their respective groups — and the total job losses are double what the country experienced during the Great Recession from 2007-09, according to the Washington Post.

The numbers would also likely be even higher — about 20 percent — if workers who were recorded as employed but were absent from work due to “other reasons” had been classified as unemployed or furloughed, the report said.

“[It’s] a pretty dismal picture, but April may be it for job losses going forward with the country starting to reopen,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, told CNBC. “If there is a silver lining in today’s dismal jobs report, it is in the realization that the economy cannot possibly get any worse than it is right now.”

The staggering numbers come as businesses across the country were forced to close and lay off or furlough workers as a means of slowing the spread of coronavirus and encouraging social distancing.

Back in February, the unemployment rate was just 3.5 percent — and though President Donald Trump said on Fox News Friday that jobs would return “very soon,” experts don’t seem so sure, according to the Post.

“This is pretty scary,” Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel, told the outlet. “I’m fearful many of these jobs are not going to come back and we are going to have an unemployment rate well into 2021 of near 10 percent.”

More than 33.5 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March, according the Department of Labor.

The coronavirus, meanwhile, has infected more than 1.2 million people and killed at least 75,746 people in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times.

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