US jobs report: 701,000 lose work amid coronavirus crisis

The US economy shed 701,000 jobs last month as the coronavirus crisis brought the nation’s nine-year hiring streak to a screeching halt, new federal data show.

The losses in non-farm payrolls reflected a massive contraction from February, when the economy added 273,000 jobs. The unemployment rate rose nearly a full percentage point to 4.4 percent last month as the pandemic forced businesses nationwide to close and lay off workers, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

The March jobs report showed an even deeper cut to the labor market than predicted by economists, who expected 100,000 lost jobs and 3.8 percent unemployment. But the figures likely only offer a glimpse at the economic toll of the pandemic.

The survey used to create the report was conducted in the first half of March, before lockdown measures aimed at stopping the virus became widespread. That means the numbers don’t account for the nearly 10 million jobless claims American workers filed in the last two full weeks of the month, which represent some 6 percent of the US workforce.

“The claims report provides a real-time view of recent layoffs while the jobs report won’t reflect this surge in unemployment until next month,” Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao wrote in a commentary.

The US had seen 113 months of consecutive job growth before the pandemic gutted the national economy, capped by February’s expectation-beating numbers. But those didn’t capture global travel restrictions, the shutdowns of non-essential businesses that have swept the US, or the mass layoffs that followed.

Experts expect the April jobs report — which won’t be released for another month — to more accurately capture the full scale of the job losses not seen in decades. Bloomberg Economics predicts this month’s unemployment rate will approach 15 percent — well above the Great Recession’s peak of 10 percent.

“March payrolls will only catch the leading edge of the Covid-19 impact, so there is significant uncertainty around the realm of outcomes — even one last positive print of a record-long cycle is possible ahead of what will be stunning April losses,” Bloomberg economists Carl Riccadonna, Yelena Shulyatyeva and Andrew Husby said in a commentary.

With Post wires

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