The Labor Department said that 20.5 million jobs were lost, in the first full month of figures since the coronavirus crisis shut down much of the U.S. economy. That is the greatest net loss of jobs on record.
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Employment in arts, entertainment and recreation fell by 1.3 million, the Labor Department said. The biggest hit was to the leisure and hospitality industry, where jobs fell by 7.7 million. The bulk of that was in food services and drinking places, which shed 5.5 million jobs, and the retail sector also took a big hit, declining by 2.1 million.
President Donald Trump was on the phone with Fox & Friends as the figures were announced. He said that the numbers were “totally expected.” “Even the Democrats are not blaming me for that,” he said.
“Those jobs will all be back and they will all be back very soon,” Trump said. “And next year we are going to have a phenomenal year.”
The news networks covered the 8:30 AM ET announcement, as it was expected that the number of unemployed would be staggering.
“We are moments away from an historic jobs report,” said CNN’s John Berman said minutes before the figure was announced.
An overwhelming share of those who lost jobs described them as temporary. According to the Labor Department, the number who reported being on a temporary layoff increased ten-fold, to 18.1 million in April. Permanent job losses increased by 544,000 to 2 million.
But that is more optimistic than a number of economists, who believe that the recovery will be gradual, as different sectors gradually reopen. Millions more could be added to the rolls, as employers still shed from their payrolls. On CNN, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said that the May unemployment figure should be around 20%.
The jobless rate was a dramatic reversal from the 50-year lows earlier in the year, as an economy that had been churning along was suddenly disrupted by the widespread closures to prevent the spread of the virus.
During the last recession, the unemployment rate reached 10% in October 2009. The rate reached 25% in 1933, during the depths of the Great Depression, but that was before the government kept official statistics.
In a Medium post, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, criticized Trump’s response to the crisis.
“President Trump had months to take action and stave off the worst of this crisis; he should have been deploying tests, marshaling medical supplies, and bracing the public to slow the spread from the minute he was briefed on its dangers this winter,” Biden wrote. “He chose instead to dismiss the experts and knowingly make false promises about our testing capacity and the trajectory of the virus.”
In a later remarks posted on Now This News, Biden said, “This crisis hit harder and will last longer because Donald Trump spent the last three years undermining the core pillars of our economic strength.”
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