September 2, 2020

Five Key Takeaways from the Unemployment Data

The economic impact of the coronavirus has been profound, but it has not been felt equally by all demographic groups.

The official unemployment rate in July 2020 was 10.2 percent, which represents 16 million people unemployed out of a civilian labor force of 160 million individuals. In addition to those counted as officially unemployed, millions of other people are only able to find part-time work or have dropped out of the labor force entirely.

This blog post uses supplemental data from the monthly report on unemployment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide additional detail on the 13 million individuals who became unemployed between the week of March 15, when states began to issue stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the week of July 12, which was when the latest employment data were collected.

  1. The vast majority of individuals who were unemployed in July became unemployed during the pandemic.
  2. Of those who were unemployed in July, 78 percent lost their job after the onset of COVID-19


  3. The nation’s youngest workers have been hit hardest by job losses during the coronavirus pandemic.
  4. Young workers have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic


  5. Non-white workers have suffered some of the worst effects that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the labor market.
  6. White workers have been least affected by the COVID-19 pandemic


  7. Labor market effects of the pandemic have not been felt equally by male and female workers.
  8. Female workers have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic


  9. Workers with lower levels of education have had a particularly rough time in the labor market during the coronavirus pandemic.
  10. Workers with the least education have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic


The data reported recently by BLS confirms earlier research about the disparity in unemployment among various groups. For example, research by the Pew Research Center pointed out that Hispanic men and women faced particularly sharp increases in unemployment rates during the early months of the pandemic.

Much of the current labor market data are based on a survey that faces data collection challenges resulting from the pandemic, and which asked respondents about their employment during the second full week of July. As a result, those data only tell part of the story of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the labor market. 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: How Has the Coronavirus Affected the U.S. Economic Outlook

Image credit: Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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