The U.S. economy lost an unprecedented 20.5 million jobs in April, shattering all previous records and hitting the highest level since the Great Depression.
The unemployment rate soared to 14.7 percent, up from 4.4 percent in March after months at a half-century low, according to the monthly employment report, released Friday by the Department of Labor.
In just over a month, the coronavirus has wiped out all job gains since the Great Recession and brought the country’s decade-long record economic growth streak to an abrupt halt.
“This is the biggest and most acute shock that we’ve seen in post-war history,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America.
April’s staggering jobless total is more than 10 times that of the previous unemployment record of 1.96 million, set in September 1945, when American soldiers returned home after World War II. April’s unemployment rate is the worst since the height of the Great Depression, when it hit 24.9 percent.
The economy has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with stores and businesses shut down for weeks, in order to maintain social distancing and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Millions of workers have been laid off, put on furlough, or made to work from home.
Since mid-March, 33.5 million people have filed for initial unemployment claims, with 22.6 million seeking ongoing benefits — by far surpassing the recessionary peak of 6.6 million.
“If we thought the worst we’d ever see with economic data would be during the financial crisis and Great Recession, the virus proved us wrong,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.