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Economic News Release

Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation News Release

Advance copies of this statement are made available to the press 
under lock-up conditions with the explicit understanding that 
the data are embargoed until 8:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

                            Statement of

                          William W. Beach
                      Bureau of Labor Statistics

                        Friday, April 3, 2020

      Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 701,000 in March, 
and the unemployment rate increased to 4.4 percent, reflecting 
the broad impact on the job market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) 
and efforts to contain the illness. Employment fell by 459,000 
in the leisure and hospitality industry, mainly in food services 
and drinking places. Notable employment decreases also occurred 
in health care and social assistance, professional and business 
services, retail trade, and construction.
      It is important to keep in mind that the March survey 
reference periods for the establishment and household surveys 
(the pay period or week, respectively, that includes the 12th of 
the month) predated many business and school closures that 
occurred in the second half of the month. In addition, data 
collection for the two surveys was affected by the coronavirus. 
Although response rates for both surveys were adversely affected 
by pandemic-related issues, we still were able to obtain 
estimates from our two surveys that met BLS standards for 
accuracy and reliability.
      Incorporating revisions for January and February, which 
decreased payroll employment by 57,000 on net, job gains 
averaged 245,000 in the first 2 months of 2020 before the 
substantial coronavirus-related decline in March.
      Within the leisure and hospitality industry, employment 
fell by 417,000 in food services and drinking places in March, 
as many restaurants and bars cut back operations. This 
employment decline nearly offset the gains over the prior 2 
years. Elsewhere in leisure and hospitality, the accommodation 
industry lost 29,000 jobs in March.
      Employment declined by 61,000 in health care and social 
assistance in March. Health care employment declined by 43,000, 
with losses occurring in offices of dentists (-17,000), offices 
of physicians (-12,000), and offices of other health 
practitioners (-7,000). From February 2019 to February 2020, 
health care added jobs each month, with an average monthly gain 
of 31,000. Employment in social assistance decreased by 19,000 
in March, reflecting a job loss in child day care services 
      Professional and business services lost 52,000 jobs in 
March, with the decline concentrated in temporary help services 
(-50,000). Employment also declined in travel arrangement and 
reservation services (-7,000).
      Employment in retail trade decreased by 46,000 over the 
month, with job losses occurring in clothing stores (-16,000); 
furniture stores (-10,000); and sporting goods, hobby, book, and 
music stores (-9,000). By contrast, employment increased in 
general merchandise stores (+10,000).
      After an average monthly employment increase of 40,000 
in January and February, construction employment declined by 
29,000 in March. Job losses occurred in nonresidential building 
(-11,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction  
      Employment in the other services industry declined by 
24,000 in March, with about half of the loss occurring in 
personal and laundry services (-13,000). Over the prior 12 
months, other services had added 89,000 jobs.
      Mining employment decreased by 6,000 in March, mostly in 
support activities for mining. Since a peak in January 2019, 
mining has lost 42,000 jobs.
      Manufacturing employment edged down in March (-18,000). 
Over the past year, manufacturing employment has changed little 
on net.
      Federal government employment rose by 18,000 in March. The 
gain largely reflects the hiring of 17,000 temporary workers for 
the 2020 Census.
      Employment in other major industries--including wholesale 
trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and 
financial activities--showed little change in March.
      Average weekly hours decreased by 0.2 hour in March for all 
private-sector workers, also reflecting the impact of the 
coronavirus. The decline in the average workweek was most 
pronounced in the leisure and hospitality industry, where 
average weekly hours dropped by 1.4 hours over the month.
      Average hourly earnings of all employees on private nonfarm 
payrolls rose by 11 cents in March to $28.62, following a gain 
of 8 cents in February. Over the past 12 months, average hourly 
earnings have risen by 3.1 percent. From February 2019 to 
February 2020, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers 
(CPI-U) increased by 2.3 percent (on a seasonally adjusted 
      Turning to the labor market indicators from the household 
survey, the unemployment rate increased by 0.9 percentage point 
to 4.4 percent in March, and the number of unemployed people 
increased by 1.4 million to 7.1 million. The increase in the 
unemployment rate was the largest single-month change since 
January 1975, when it also increased by 0.9 percentage point. 
The bulk of the increase in unemployment occurred among people 
on temporary layoff, which increased by 1.0 million in March to 
1.8 million.
      Among the unemployed, the number of people searching for 
work for less than 5 weeks was 3.5 million, an increase of 1.5 
million from February. These recently unemployed people 
represented nearly half (48.5 percent) of the unemployed in 
March. The number of people searching for work for 27 weeks or 
more was little changed at 1.2 million. These long-term 
unemployed accounted for 15.9 percent of the unemployed.
      The labor force participation rate declined by 0.7 
percentage point in March to 62.7 percent. The employment-
population ratio fell by 1.1 percentage points over the month to 
60.0 percent.
      In March, 5.8 million people were working part time for 
economic reasons (also referred to as involuntary part-time 
workers), 1.4 million more than in February. Most of this 
increase was among people whose hours were cut due to slack work 
or business conditions.
      Among those neither working nor looking for work in March, 
1.4 million were considered marginally attached to the labor 
force, essentially unchanged over the month. (People who are 
marginally attached to the labor force had not looked for work 
in the 4 weeks prior to the survey but wanted a job, were 
available for work, and had looked for a job within the last 12 
months.) Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally 
attached who believed no jobs were available for them, numbered 
514,000 in March, up 109,000 from February.
      In addition to the increase in the number of unemployed 
people, there was also an increase in the number of workers who 
were classified as employed but absent from work for the entire 
reference week. Special instructions sent to household survey 
interviewers just before data collection started for March 
called for all employed people absent from work due to 
coronavirus-related business closures to be classified as 
unemployed on temporary layoff. However, after BLS reviewed the 
data, it was apparent that not all such workers were so 
classified. Such a misclassification is an example of 
nonsampling error and can occur when respondents misunderstand 
questions or interviewers record answers incorrectly. As is our 
usual practice, no ad hoc actions were taken to reassign survey 
responses; the data were accepted as recorded.
      If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent 
from work due to "other reasons" (over and above the number 
absent for other reasons in a typical March) had been classified 
as unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate 
would have been almost 1 percentage point higher than reported. 
Additional information is available online at
      Summarizing the labor market developments in March, nonfarm 
payroll employment declined by 701,000, and the unemployment 
rate increased to 4.4 percent, broadly reflecting some of the 
early effects on the job market of the coronavirus and efforts 
to contain it.

Last Modified Date: September 23, 2020