US job losses shoot up to record 14.7% in April

It’s been the worst since World War II, a grim milestone as the world celebrated VE Day to commemorate the surrender of Nazi forces in Europe on May 8, 1945.
The previous record of job losses 10.4%, was all the way back in 1948, more than half a century ago; and it’s the steepest monthly drop since 1939.(REUTERS)
The previous record of job losses 10.4%, was all the way back in 1948, more than half a century ago; and it’s the steepest monthly drop since 1939.(REUTERS)
Updated on May 08, 2020 08:25 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

Unemployment in the United States climbed to a record 14.7% in April, the month the Covid-19 pandemic peaked forcing state and local governments around the country to shut down all but essential services. An unprecedented 20.5 million people were left jobless that month, according to new data released Friday.

It’s been the worst since World War II, a grim milestone as the world celebrated VE Day to commemorate the surrender of Nazi forces in Europe on May 8, 1945. The previous record of job losses 10.4%, was all the way back in 1948, more than half a century ago; and it’s the steepest monthly drop since 1939.

An estimated 33.5 million people have filed for unemployments benefits in the past six weeks since the lockdowns went into effect mid-March, according to weekly data released Thursday; the peak was 6.9 million in late March.

“Today’s report reflects the massive impact that measures to contain the coronavirus have had on the American workforce,” Eugene Scalia, the US labour secretary said in a statement. “This employment situation is exceptionally fluid. We know that today’s data reflect neither the additional layoffs that occurred in late April and early May, nor the employees beginning to return to work in some States. We also know that, by re-opening safely, we have the capacity to avoid permanent job losses for the overwhelming percent of Americans who, the report shows, currently view their job loss as temporary.”

President Donald Trump tried to strike a positive note, saying the economy will bounce back. “Those jobs will all be back and they’ll be back very soon,” he said in an interview to Fox News, slipping on his cheerleader hat, as he has often said he does. He added the next year will be “a phenomenal year”.

Unemployment numbers stood at 3.5% in February, a half-century low. The economy was booming and the president had hoped to ride it to a second term. He called the collapse “artificial” as he has sought before to make it clear he is not responsible for it.

The US has pumped in trillions of dollars into the economy to bail out businesses hit by the lockdown and help them keep as many employees on their rolls as they can. And direct payments have been made to American families below a certain income level and unemployments benefits have been increased substantially to alleviate their situation.

And as the number of new infections have have continued to drop and as have those for hospitalization and intubation (patients put on ventilators), most states have either eased restrictions, or have announced plans, and allowed certain businesses and establishments to reopen, under strict observance of social distancing rules.

But experts have warned of a resurgence in fatalities because of the easing and one widely cited research model has projected more than 134,000 deaths by August 4.

Fatalities went up by 2.231 in the last 24 hours to 75,670 Friday morning and the number of confirmed and reported infections increased by 28,420 to 1.25 million. The number of single-day deaths had dropped considerably but have since rebounded, posting another 2,000-plus toll.

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