US suffers biggest job losses in history due to virus impact

A woman gets job application details in Illinois as US workers continue to suffer from devastating job losses. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: The coronavirus lockdown wiped out 20.5 million US jobs in April, destroying nearly all the positions created in the prior decade in the world’s largest economy, the Labour Department reported Friday.

The unprecedented collapse drove the unemployment rate to 14.7% – well beyond the peak hit in late 2009 during the global financial crisis – from 4.4% in March.

And job losses in March were worse than initially reported, falling 870,000 even though the business closures mostly happened in the second half of the month.

The plunge in nonfarm payroll employment was the largest ever recorded since 1939, while the jobless rate was the highest and the biggest increase since 1948, the report said.

Employment fell sharply in all major industry sectors, with particularly heavy job losses in leisure and hospitality, the first sector hit and the one bearing the brunt of the impact of the lockdowns.

However, the Labour Department noted that some workers were misclassified in the report as employed when they should have been counted as laid off. Had they been listed properly, the unemployment rate would have been nearly five percentage points higher.