New hiring fell to an all-time low in April as coronavirus lockdowns took a steep toll on economic activity across the United States, according to newly released Department of Labor stats.
Hiring plunged to 3.5 million in April, or a decline of 1.6 million from the month before and the lowest since the Labor Department’s JOLTS (Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey) report was relaunched in 2002 after a 20-year hiatus.
Professional and business services, as well as construction, accommodation and food services saw the biggest declines in hiring as states across the country shut down restaurants and imposed strict conditions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Still, the harsh numbers were offset somewhat by a big drop in the pace of layoffs, which fell 3.8 million in April to 7.7 million, as well as the far more upbeat job creation numbers for the month of May, which just came out last Thursday.
That separate Labor Department report, which tracks unemployment numbers, saw a drop in the jobless rate to 13.3 percent in May on a wave of 2.5 million new jobs, confounding many economists who had predicted yet another increase in the ranks of the jobless.
Still, the JOLTS report documents the unprecedented speed at which the economy hit the skids in April as efforts to battle the coronavirus took precedence, as well as the steep climb ahead for the U.S. economy as it battles to come back, economists say.
While the pace of layoffs and discharges in such hard-hit sectors as accommodation, food services and retail moderated somewhat in April, they jumped in construction, wholesale trade and information industries.
With a number of major cities like Boston shutting down building activity amid the coronavirus, the number of layoffs and discharges in the construction industry rose by 85,000 in April, with layoffs in the information sector jumping by 53,000 and by 50,000 in wholesale trade, the Labor Department’s JOLTS report found.