Coronavirus Hits Job Numbers Earlier Than Expected, More Bad News Ahead

April 03, 2020

The number of payroll jobs fell by 701,000 in March as nearly every industry suffered substantial job losses, with the unemployment rate jumping to 4.4% and employment in the leisure and hospitality industry falling by 459,000.

Household employment numbers also tank:  Employment, as measured by the separate household survey, fell by almost 3.0 million with 1.6 million of those workers leaving the labor force (i.e., not looking for work), and 1.3 million reporting they are unemployed (looking for work).

Wage growth holds up for now:  About the only positive data in the report was that average hourly earnings have increased 3.1% from one year ago.

The initial wave of COVID-19 layoffs are reflected in nearly every industry:

  • Leisure and hospitality (-459,000);
  • Temporary help services (-49,500);
  • Retail (-46,200);
  • Health care (-42,500);
  • Construction (-29,000);
  • Other services (-24,000);
  • Social assistance (-18,700); and
  • Manufacturing (-18,000).

Most other industries were little changed, with government being the only exception (+18,000).

Looking ahead:  With about 90% of Americans ordered to stay at home across 45 states, the jobs numbers are likely to be very bleak for the next two months.