U.S. jobless rate soars as payrolls plummet

The unemployment rate has soared in the United States from one of its lowest levels to one of its highest as the coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions triggered an unprecedented decline in payrolls.

The jobless rate increased more than 10 points to 14.7 percent in April as nonfarm payrolls decreased 20.5 million, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates.

The latest jobless rate is the highest since the federal agency started tracking monthly rates in 1948. In February, the jobless rate stood at 3.5 percent, matching the lowest level in 50 years.

The decline in payrolls between March and April was the largest on record and brought employment to its lowest level since 2011.

Initial estimates for payrolls for March and February were revised downward 214,000. According to the latest numbers, employment decreased 870,00 in March after increasing 230,000 in February.

For April, 18.1 million people were counted among those on temporary layoffs. Permanent job losses increased to 2 million.

The number of people counted among those working part-time because their hours were cut or they were unable to find full-time positions nearly doubled to 10.9 million.

The labor participation rate dropped 2.5 points to 60.2 percent, the lowest level since 1973.

Layoffs were spread out among most industry sectors but were most severe in the leisure and hospitality sector, which saw payrolls drop 7.7 million.

Employment declined 2.5 million in the education and health services with job losses in the offices of dentists and other health care providers as well as at private educational facilities and childcare providers.

Payrolls decreased 2.1 million in retail trades, with more than half that loss in clothing stores and automotive and parts dealers. Wholesale trades shed another 363,000 jobs. Employment declined 1.3 million in manufacturing, 975,000 in construction and  584,000 in transportation and warehousing.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls increased a tenth of an hour to 34.2 hours. The manufacturing workweek decreased 2.1 hours to 38.3 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose $1.34 to $30.01. The increase reflects job losses among lower-paid workers that had pulled down the average.