Optimism Remains Despite Record Jobless Numbers

Optimism Remains Despite Record Jobless Numbers

Despite Friday’s (May 8) grim unemployment report, which revealed that the number of Americans who have lost their jobs has quadrupled since February, there is still optimism among the nation’s workforce.

More than 78 percent of unemployed workers told the government they expect their layoffs to be temporary, perhaps the silver lining amid the COVID-19 turmoil, CNBC reported. The poll was conducted as part of a household survey of about 23 million Americans who have lost their jobs, including those who were jobless in April.

In what could be a potentially good sign for the economy, the number of employees who saw themselves as temporarily furloughed was 18 million, up from just two million in March. Those workers said they expect to return to work by October.

Michelle Meyer, Bank of America’s head of U.S. economics, said the high number of temporary layoffs was a glimmer of light in the BLS’ bleak report. “With 78 percent classified as temporarily unemployed, workers should be able to be more seamlessly rehired upon reopening,” she wrote in a note. “But time is of the essence.”

Goldman Sachs said there’s good reason for optimism. “Over the last 50 years, the three recessions with the highest share of temporary layoffs were followed by the fastest labor market recoveries,” its economists wrote. 

Still, some economists say it’s tough to predict how soon those employees will get back to work. Recovery from the nearly universal shutdown of the economy in late March is likely to be slow, CNBC wrote.

States are reopening unevenly and the course of the virus remains uncertain, with no vaccine available yet. The hardest-hit sectors are those that are most impacted by social distancing and the virus, making it more difficult to return to normal anytime soon, the news service reported.

Nonfarm jobs fell by 20.5 million in April and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent from a 50-year low of 3.5 percent in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number topped the post-World War II record of 10.8 percent in November of 1982. It’s the highest rate and the largest over-the-month increase in the history of the series dating back to 1948.