The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, taking payroll employment back to levels last seen in spring 2011 when the economy was recovering from the Great Recession, and the unemployment rate jumped by a historic amount to 14.7%, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for white males is 12.4%, the largest for white men in the post-World War II era and the first time it has been in double digits since that era.
In response to the April job numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:
The unemployment rate in April jumped for all education categories, Less than high school from 6.8 to 21.2%, high school grads from 4.4 to 17.3%, some college and associate degree holders 3.7 to 15.0% and college grads 2.5 to 8.4%. @AFLCIO— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
In another measure of labor market stress, among the 51.3% with jobs, the jump in part-time work for economic reasons was from 5,765,000 to 10,887,000; most of that reflecting slack business with a reduction in hours (4,043,000 to 9,939,000). @AFLCIO— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
All industries reported drops in payroll in April (left of the vertical line), the largest loss in leisure and hospitality (the lowest wage industry-moving down the graph from the average wage of $30.01 an hour), higher wage industries (going up the chart) showed fewer losses. pic.twitter.com/id24EvK9Fh— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
The index of average weekly hours fell 14.9% from March,in leisure and hospitality (food service and accomodations) the drop was a dramatic 43.1%. That with the increase in part time work because of slack, shows that those who remain at work are struggling. @AFLCIO— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
The drop of 801,000 jobs in local government is a harbinger of things to come; from the effects of the shutdown of schools (468,800) to loss revenues. If aid to doesn't flow to state and local governments there won't be a recover. @AFSCME @AFLCIO— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
In an odd world of convergence, the Black and white EPOPs moved closer (in the wrong direction of course). This is because of the devastating effects on entire industries, not just on front line workers. @CBTU72 @rolandsmartin @APRI_National @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/QpFf9gsxsl— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
This picture says it all. The dramatic turn of events tests our national leadership. The last 36 months showed anyone can continue to drive the car on a dry road and sunny skies, but, when there is a crisis, leadership matters. This is a failure to plan. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/VTT6OF30vp— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
The Black unemployment rate in April was 16.7%, compared to 14.2% for whites (so not double), and more importantly in this environment, the share of people employed (EPOP) was 48.8% for Blacks and 51.8% for whites. @CBTU72 @APRI_National @NAACPecon @rolandsmartin @AFLCIO— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
Average weekly earnings (not accounting for inflation) were lower in April 2020 than last April in construction, manufacturing and leisure & hospitality. This is another indication of the strain on those remaining employed. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/89tfOOQuOy— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
The loss of jobs in April fell hardest on women, who after climbing to over half the American workforce, fell back to levels lower than last April. Whether we will devise a stimulus aimed at women in the work place will be the big challenge. @IWPResearch @lizshuler @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/TsJqyzjljP— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
A key age group hit hard in the April numbers were those 20 to 24, whose unemployment rate jumped from 8.7 to 25.7%. @AFLCIO— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
A dramatic increase for women heading households: for married women, with a spouse present, the unemployment rate jumped from 3.0% in March to 13.1% in April, and for single women heads of household, it jumped from 5.3 to 15.9%. @AFLCIO— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
Two signs of the discouraged worker affect: 1) In April the number of long term unemployed dropped from March (a sense they dropped out) and (2) the high share of workers who were in the labor force in March but dropped out of the Labor Force in April. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/r7gSVFqAli— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
Another discouraged worker sign: The drop in people being unemployed as they re-entered or were new entrants to the job market from March to April. The drop in new entrants will be important in understanding how this downturn affects the Class of 2020 graduating now. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/ozHVjdOfBc— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
If there is a silver lining, it is the very large share (78.3%) of the unemployed who believe they are on temporary layoff (or furlough). Their belief about returning to work will slow the spread of anxiety common in 2008, when job losses were viewed as permanent. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/U7Z7ca1L2A— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020
Every sector saw job losses in April. The largest losses were in leisure and hospitality (-7.7 million), education and health services (-2.5 million), professional and business services (-2.1 million), retail trade (-2.1 million), manufacturing (-1.3 million), other services (-1.3 million), government (-980,000), construction (-975,000), transportation and warehousing (-584,000), wholesale trade (-363,000), financial activities (-262,000), information (-254,000), and mining (-46,000).
In April, unemployment rates rose among all major worker groups. The rate was 31.9% for teenagers, 18.9% for Hispanics, 16.7% for blacks, 15.5% for adult women, 14.5% for Asians, 14.2% for whites and 13.0% for adult men. The rates for all of these groups, except black Americans, represent record highs in the history of this measure.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) declined by 225,000 in April and accounted for 4.1% of the unemployed, as a sign of discouraged workers.
In advance of the release of the April job numbers, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) spoke about the unemployment crisis and what needs to be done about it:
Here is the good news: there are practical solutions on the table. We can use federal funding to keep people employed and guarantee everyone’s paycheck for the duration of the crisis. This concept is neither new nor radical. It’s been done before. Employers that have to lay off workers or shut down can certify their payrolls to the federal government. The government pays for the employer to pay their employees. No money goes to CEOs or to Wall Street—just to workers.
Payroll support has been endorsed across the political spectrum, from Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It’s supported by Alabama’s Doug Jones and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders. And it’s gaining traction among both business and labor. Yes, we must work out the details. But that’s what governing is. What better time to put aside party labels and do what is necessary to keep America whole?
Trust me, every worker would rather receive a paycheck than an unemployment check. But that’s not all we want. Our jobs are a source of dignity. A piece of our pride. We are ready to get back to work. We are ready to rebuild America—a nation built by unions. We’ve made this country better, and we’re going to do it again.