March 2020 Jobs Report Shows U.S. Lost 701,000 Jobs Due to Coronavirus

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The United States economy lost 701,000 jobs and the unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent in March 2020, reflecting the effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the efforts to contain the pandemic, according to the jobs report for March 2020 released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The increase of the unemployment rate by 0.9 percent, from 3.5 percent in February 2020 to 4.4. percent in March 2020, was the largest over-the-month increase in the rate since January 1975. Much of the March 2020 survey predated many Coronavirus-related business closures that occurred in the second half of the month.

The COVID-19 virus will continue to impact the number of Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims. In the week ending March 28, 2020, the figure for initial UI claims was 6,648,000, an increase of 3,341,000 from the previous week’s revised level and the highest level of initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series.

While unemployment will rise significantly in the coming months, the jobs report for March 2020 showed the number of unemployed persons rose 1.4 million to 7.1 million. Job losses occurred in leisure and hospitality, health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction.

  • Leisure and hospitality employment fell by 459,000 jobs in March 2020, with 417,000 of those jobs lost in food services and drinking places, nearly offsetting gains over the previous two years.
  • Health care and social assistance employment fell by 61,000 jobs in March 2020, with health care declining by 43,000 jobs and social assistance declining by 19,000 jobs.
  • Professional and business services employment decreased by 52,000 jobs in March 2020, with temporary help services losing 50,000 jobs.
  • Retail trade employment declined by 46,000 jobs in March 2020, with job losses occurring in clothing stores, furniture stores, and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores.
  • Construction employment decreased by 29,000 jobs in March 2020, after increasing by 211,000 over the prior 12 months.
  • Other services industry employment declined by 24,000 jobs in March 2020, with about half the loss occurring in personal and laundry services.
  • Manufacturing employment lost 18,000 jobs in March 2020 and has shown little change over the past 12 months.
  • Mining employment lost 6,000 jobs in March 2020 and has lost 42,000 jobs since a recent peak in January 2019.

On the positive side, federal government employment rose by 18,000 jobs, reflecting the hiring of 17,000 workers for the 2020 census. Employment in other industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities, changed little over the month.

The change in employment for January 2020 was revised from 273,000 jobs added to 214,000 jobs added while February 2020 was revised from 273,000 jobs added to 275,000 jobs added. With these revisions, gains in January and February combined were 57,000 jobs lower than previously reported.

The jobs report is usually released on the first Friday of every month. The jobs report for April 2020 is scheduled to be released on Friday, May 8, 2020. Until then, the most recent jobs report will be available at www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm (PDF).

A survey of how HR professionals use background screening released in May 2019 by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) – formerly the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – revealed 96 percent of employers conduct background checks on job applicants.

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