Unemployment rate hits 14.7 percent with 20.5 million jobs lost in April

The coronavirus has the US economy coughing up a lung.

The nation lost a record 20.5 million jobs in April as the pandemic caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the feds said Friday.

The mass layoffs sent the unemployment rate up to 14.7 percent — the highest ever recorded since the government started tracking it in the 1940s.

The job losses reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics destroyed the previous record of nearly 2 million, set in September 1945 in the wake of World War II. The largest monthly loss during the Great Recession was just 800,000 in March 2009.

The numbers were slightly better than the gloomy expectations of economists, who predicted a loss of 22 million jobs and 16 percent unemployment.

The closely watched monthly report is the first to fully capture the impact of the coronavirus crisis, which has forced businesses across the country to shut down for the sake of public health.

It illustrates how the pandemic has crippled a US economy that was humming along nicely just two months ago, when unemployment was sitting at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent before the nation’s nine-year hiring streak came to an abrupt end in March.

A trickle of grim economic data hinted at the devastation manifested in Friday’s report. More than 33 million Americans sought unemployment benefits in less than two months, and the nation’s gross domestic product suffered its sharpest contraction since the Great Recession in the first quarter.

While some of the job losses may be temporary, it’s unclear how quickly Americans will get back to work even as states begin to lift lockdowns aimed at controlling the coronavirus.

Bob Michele, chief investment officer at JPMorgan Asset Management, thinks it could take more than a decade for employment to return to where it was before the pandemic.

“It’s going to take years, or longer, to get back to where we are, or where we were,” Michele told Bloomberg on Thursday. “Even looking out a year and a half from now, we’re still going to be roughly where we were at the peak of the financial crisis.”

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