May 8, 2020

US unemployment rate soars to record high of 14.7% amid coronavirus epidemic

Daily Briefing

    The U.S. unemployment rate rose to a record high of 14.7% in April, as the number of unemployed Americans increased by 15.9 million last month amid closures of nonessential businesses and state stay-at-home orders intended to curb the country's new coronavirus epidemic, according to a Department of Labor (DOL) report released Friday.

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    The news comes as the number of cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and deaths linked to the virus in the United States continue to rise at a steady pace.

    U.S. officials as of Friday had reported 1,264,000 cases of Covid-19 in the country—up from 1,235,200 cases as of Thursday morning.

    According to an analysis by STAT News, the number of newly reported Covid-19 cases in the United States grew by more than 25,000 nearly each day in April, and that rate has not appeared to slow in May.

    STAT News also found that there has been more than 1,000 newly reported U.S. deaths linked to the novel coronavirus each day since April 2, with the daily total surpassing 2,000 on multiple days—including on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

    As of Friday morning, officials had reported a total of 75,746 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 73,549 deaths reported as of Thursday morning.

    Although the numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to increase across the country, many states are moving forward with plans to reopen nonessential businesses and relax social distancing measures, even though public health officials have warned that easing those policies at this time could exacerbate the epidemic and cause spikes in new Covid-19 cases and deaths. Some federal and state officials have argued that they need to begin reopening businesses and easing stay-at-home orders to ramp up the country's economy, as many Americans are facing financial hardships.

    US unemployment rate hits the highest level since Great Depression

    The DOL report released Friday sheds new light on the effect the United States' Covid-19 epidemic is having on the country's economy and Americans.

    The report showed that the U.S. unemployment rate has quadrupled since February—when the rate reached a 50-year low at 3.5%. According to the report, the country's unemployment rate grew to 14.7% in April, up from 4.4% in March. As of April, there are now 23.1 million people filing unemployment claims.

    April's unemployment rate is the highest the country has seen since the Great Depression—and could be even higher than the figure reported by DOL, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, DOL's report is based on a survey conducted in mid-April, and unemployment numbers likely continued to increase throughout the end of April.

    In addition, the report's unemployment total includes only people who are actively searching for employment or are temporarily furloughed, NPR reports. People who are not actively seeking employment because of stay-at-home orders or other reasons are not included in the figure, but totaled 9.9 million people, according to Axios.

    President Trump during an interview on Fox News on Friday said jobs lost because of the country's Covid-19 epidemic "will all be back and they'll be back very soon … and next year we're going to have a phenomenal year."

    However, some experts have expressed skepticism that the country's economy will recover quickly. Experts have said the epidemic's impact on the U.S. economy will depend on a number of factors, including whether the epidemic begins to wane and when nonessential businesses reopen, the Wall Street Journal reports. Experts have noted that some businesses—such as hotels, restaurants, transportation, and travel businesses—likely take longer to rebound from the epidemic's financial impact than others (Joseph, STAT News, 5/7; Brown, Axios, 5/8; Horsley, NPR, 5/8; Chaney/Morath, Wall Street Journal, 5/8; Irwin, "The Upshot," New York Times, 5/7; Saphir, Reuters, 5/8; New York Times, 5/8 [1]; New York Times, 5/8 [2]; DOL report, 5/8).

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