U.S. Unemployment Rate rose to 4.4% in March 2020

April 06, 2020

Total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 701,000 in March, as the rate of unemployment increased to 4.4%, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS). This increase reflects the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and efforts to contain it. BLS mentioned that, “employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places.” Notable job losses also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction.


Leisure and hospitality decreased by 459,000 in March 2020 with most of the decline occurring in the food services and drinking places (-417,000) while the employment in the accommodation industry also declined in March (-29,000). Notably, employment in health care and social assistance declined by 61,000 jobs in March. Whereas, professional and business services fell by 52,000, retail trade went down by 46,000, construction decreased by 29,000 while other services subsided by 24,000 jobs in March. Moreover, employment within the other major industries including mining and manufacturing lost 6000 jobs and 18,000 jobs respectively, meanwhile, federal government added 18,000 jobs. However, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities reflected little change over the month.


Notably, BLS stated, “the number of unemployed persons who reported being on temporary layoff more than doubled in March to 1.8 million. The number of permanent job losers increased by 177,000 to 1.5 million.”


In March, the number of unemployed persons increased by 1.4 million to 7.1 million, while the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) stood at 1.2 million. Notably, the total number of persons classified as long-term unemployed, accounted for 15.9% of the unemployed. However, number of unemployed persons who were jobless less than 5 weeks increased by 1.5 million in March to 3.5 million.

The labour force participation rate for March decreased by 0.7 percentage point to 62.7%, while the employment population ratio fell 1.1 percentage points to 60.0%. Persons employed part time for economic reasons stood at 5.8 million in March. Based on BLS assessment, “these individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.”

In March, a total of 1.4 million individuals were slightly attached to the labour force, little changed from February. These persons were not in the labour force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job in the last year. Of the marginally attached, 514,000 persons were classified as discouraged workers in March, up 109,000 over the month. These persons are not currently seeking for work as they believe no jobs are available for them.

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