Jobless Rate Hits 14.7 Pct; 20.5M Nonfarm Jobs Lost

April Jobs Report - Unemployment

The latest jobless report illustrates the devastation caused by COVID-19, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the worst unemployment numbers in the nation’s history.

Nonfarm jobs fell by 20.5 million in April, and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent from a half-century low of 3.5 percent in February, according to the BLS. That number tops the post-World War II record of 10.8 percent in November of 1982, and it’s the highest rate and the largest over-the-month increase in the history of the series dating back to 1948.

The U.S. hiring boom that started more than two years ago is now just a memory, as unemployment numbers in the 3 percent range have disappeared indefinitely.

Employment fell sharply in all major industry sectors, with the heaviest job losses in leisure and hospitality, where jobs plummeted by 7.7 million in April, or 47 percent. Nearly three-quarters of the losses occurred in foodservice and bars, down 5.5 million. There were other declines in healthcare and social assistance, professional and business services, retail, trade and construction.

Minutes before the latest unemployment data was released, JetBlue CEO Joanna Geraghty told CNN that she was hoping for a small glimmer of light, but did not expect good news from the April numbers.

“We are not overly optimistic,” she said. “The airline industry has been rocked to its core.”

Mark Hamrick,’s senior economic analyst, said the BLS numbers produce an unlikely mixture of shock, but not surprise. “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,” he said in a statement.

While the stock market is looking past these horrific numbers to a recovery ahead, he said a reboot will require best-case scenarios. “That includes the discovery of an effective vaccine sooner rather than later to help us put this multifaceted disaster behind us,” he added.

The latest jobless numbers come as the pandemic caused another 3.2 million people to file for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 2, PYMNTS reported on Thursday (May 7). Total claims filed since March have topped 30 million.