A staggering 29 million Americans lost their livelihoods in April as the spreading coronavirus shuttered stores, factories and offices, canceled events, and brought transit around the country to a sudden stop.
Payrolls fell by 20.5 million last month, leaving 23 million unemployed, the Labor Department said Friday. Another 6.6 million Americans left the workforce altogether, meaning they were neither employed nor looking for work. The nation’s unemployment rate more than tripled, soaring to 14.7% from 4.4% in March — the highest since the Great Depression.
The sheer scale of economic destruction — which wiped out a decade’s worth of job gains in a matter of weeks — defies historical comparison. Prior to April, the largest one-month hit to payrolls was in September of 1945, when 1.9 million jobs were lost as the country demobilized from World War II. In March of 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession, 800,000 jobs were lost in a single month.