April 21, 2020

Four Key Takeaways From the Early Unemployment Data

The official unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in March 2020, up from 3.5 percent in February. That increase was the largest of any month since January 1975. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, though, that the March reference periods for their surveys predated many business and school closures that occurred in the second half of the month. The charts below provide additional detail on the individuals who reported that they were unemployed in the March report.

  1. The unemployment rate was considerably higher for the nation’s youngest workers.

  3. Across the country, workers with less than a college degree are facing particularly higher unemployment rates.

  5. Those who were unemployed during March most frequently cited the following occupations as the last job that they held.

  7. Individuals who want a job but have given up on their job search are not counted in the official unemployment rate. However, there were 5 million such workers in March, and they came from all racial and ethnic groups.

    Much of the current labor market data are based on a survey that asked respondents about their employment during the second week of March. As a result, those data only tell part of the story of how the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the labor market, and subsequent data will show even more extreme job losses. Nonetheless, the data available thus far provide a valuable look into where the labor market is heading, and who might need assistance moving forward.

    Related: Infographic: Nearly 7 in 10 Americans Say Their Incomes Have Taken a Hit from the Pandemic

    Image credit: Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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