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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.

(NOTE: On May 11, 2020, BLS corrected errors in national estimates
for seasonally adjusted all employees in professional and technical
services, professional and business services, private service-
providing, service-providing, total private, and total nonfarm.
The corrected change in total nonfarm employment for April is 37,000
lower than initially reported. Estimates in the LABSTAT database and
in this statement were corrected for February, March, and April
2020. BLS also corrected other supporting documentation on

                          Statement of

                        William W. Beach
                     Bureau of Labor Statistics

                       Friday, May 8, 2020

      Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 20.5 million in 
April, and the unemployment rate increased to 14.7 percent, 
reflecting the widespread impact on the job market of the 
coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. 
Employment fell sharply in all major industry sectors, with a 
particularly large decline in the leisure and hospitality 
      The response rate for the household survey continued to be 
adversely affected by pandemic-related issues, while that for 
the establishment survey returned to a normal range in April.  
In addition, there were changes to the estimation methods for 
the establishment survey to better account for the historic 
number of temporary or permanent business closures in April. The 
impacts of the pandemic on the household and payroll surveys are 
detailed in the April Employment Situation news release and 
accompanying materials (available on the BLS website at For both 
surveys, we were able to obtain estimates that met BLS standards 
for accuracy and reliability.
      The substantial job declines related to the coronavirus 
pandemic started in March, as payroll employment declined by 
881,000, as revised. Job losses accelerated in April, as an 
additional 20.5 million jobs were lost. These April losses were 
pervasive across all industry sectors, and brought nonfarm 
employment to its lowest level since January 2011.
      Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry 
decreased by 7.7 million in April, or 47 percent. Job losses in 
food services and drinking places accounted for nearly three-
quarters of the decline, as many restaurants and bars were 
closed or curtailed operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
Elsewhere in leisure and hospitality, employment was down by 1.3 
million in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry, and 
the number of jobs in the accommodation industry fell by 
      Employment declined by 2.5 million in education and health 
services in April. Health care employment declined by 1.4 
million, with decreases in offices of dentists (-503,000), 
offices of physicians (-243,000), offices of other health 
practitioners (-205,000), and hospitals (-135,000). Employment 
in social assistance decreased by 651,000 over the month, 
reflecting job cuts in child day care services (-336,000) and 
individual and family services (-241,000). Employment in private 
education declined by 457,000 over the month.
      Employment in professional and business services declined 
by 2.2 million in April. Much of the overall decline occurred in 
temporary help services (-842,000). Employment also declined in 
services to buildings and dwellings (-259,000), computer systems 
design (-93,000), and architectural and engineering services  
      Employment in retail trade also decreased by 2.1 million 
over the month. Sizable job declines occurred in clothing stores 
(-740,000); motor vehicle and parts dealers (-345,000); 
miscellaneous store retailers (-264,000); furniture stores  
(-209,000); and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores  
(-185,000). By contrast, the component of general merchandise 
stores that includes warehouse clubs and supercenters added 
93,000 jobs.
      Manufacturing employment fell by 1.3 million in April, with 
about two-thirds of the decline occurring in the durable goods 
component (-914,000). Within durable goods, large decreases 
occurred in motor vehicles and parts (-382,000), fabricated 
metal products (-109,000), and machinery (-80,000). Employment 
in nondurable goods industries decreased by 416,000, including 
declines in food manufacturing (-86,000), printing and related 
support activities (-79,000), and plastics and rubber products 
      Employment in the other services industry also declined by 
1.3 million in April, with nearly two-thirds of the loss 
occurring in personal and laundry services (-797,000).
      In April, government employment declined by 980,000; local 
government employment was down by 801,000, partly reflecting 
school closures. Employment in state government education was 
down by 176,000.
      Construction employment decreased by 975,000 in April, with 
large declines in specialty trade contractors (-691,000) and in 
construction of buildings (-206,000).
      Employment in transportation and warehousing fell by 
584,000 over the month, with notable decreases in transit and 
ground passenger transportation (-185,000) and in air 
transportation (-141,000).
      Wholesale trade employment decreased by 363,000 in April, 
reflecting sizable declines in both the durable and nondurable 
goods components.
      Over the month, employment in financial activities fell by 
262,000, with most of the decline occurring in real estate and 
rental and leasing (-222,000).
      Employment in information fell by 254,000 in April, driven 
largely by a decline in motion picture and sound recording 
industries (-217,000).
      Mining employment decreased by 46,000 over the month, 
mostly in support activities for mining (-33,000).
      Average weekly hours for all private-sector workers showed 
an increase of 0.1 hour in April, after declining by 0.3 hour in 
March. However, in April, there were notable declines in the 
average workweek for manufacturing (-2.1 hours), construction  
(-1.3 hours), and wholesale trade (-1.2 hours).
      Given the large employment decline in March and the extreme 
job cuts in April, one must be cautious when interpreting the 
changes in average weekly hours for all private-sector workers. 
While it is certainly true some employees worked additional 
hours in April, the majority of the increase in average weekly 
hours reflects the disproportionate number of workers with 
shorter workweeks who went off payrolls; their removal put 
upward pressure on the average hours estimate.
      Similarly, our estimates of average hourly earnings for 
April also must be interpreted with extra caution. Average 
hourly earnings of all employees on private nonfarm payrolls 
rose by $1.34 in April to $30.01, following a gain of 15 cents 
in March. While some workers experienced an increase in pay in 
April, the increase in average hourly earnings reflects the 
disproportionate number of lower-paid workers who went off 
payrolls; their removal put upward pressure on the average 
hourly earnings estimate.
      Turning to the labor market indicators from the household 
survey, the unemployment rate increased by 10.3 percentage 
points to 14.7 percent in April. This is the highest 
unemployment rate and largest single-month change in the history 
of the series (seasonally adjusted data are available back to 
1948). The number of unemployed people increased by 15.9 million 
to 23.1 million. Among the unemployed, a large increase occurred 
among people on temporary layoff; this group increased by 16.2 
million in April to 18.1 million.
      The unemployment rate rose sharply for all of the major 
worker groups in April. The rate was 13.0 percent for adult men, 
15.5 percent for adult women, 31.9 percent for teenagers, 14.2 
percent for Whites, 16.7 percent for Blacks, 14.5 percent for 
Asians, and 18.9 percent for Hispanics. The rates for all of 
these groups, with the exception of Blacks, represent record 
highs for their respective series.
      Among the unemployed, the number of people searching for 
work for less than 5 weeks was 14.3 million, an increase of 10.7 
million from March. These recently unemployed people represented 
61.9 percent of the unemployed in April. The number of 
unemployed persons who were jobless 5 to 14 weeks rose by 5.2 
million to 7.0 million. The number of people searching for work 
for 27 weeks or more declined slightly to 939,000 over the 
      The labor force participation rate declined by 2.5 
percentage points in April to 60.2 percent, the lowest rate 
since January 1973. Total employment, as measured by the 
household survey, fell by 22.4 million to 133.4 million in 
April. The employment-population ratio, at 51.3 percent, dropped 
by 8.7 percentage points over the month. This is the lowest rate 
and largest over-the-month decline in the history of the series, 
which dates back to 1948.
      The number of persons who usually work full time declined 
by 15.0 million over the month, and the number who usually work 
part time declined by 7.4 million. Part-time workers accounted 
for one-third of the over-the-month employment decline.
      In April, the number of people at work part time for 
economic reasons (also referred to as involuntary part-time 
workers) nearly doubled, increasing by 5.1 million to 10.9 
million. The increase reflects a sharp rise in the number of 
people whose hours were cut due to slack work or business 
      The number of persons not in the labor force who currently 
want a job, at 9.9 million, nearly doubled in April. These 
individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not 
actively looking for work during the 4-week period ending with 
the April survey or were unavailable to take a job. The large 
increase in the want a job category reflects the impact of the 
pandemic on the job market, as mandatory business closures, 
stay-at-home orders, and fear of the coronavirus illness kept 
many individuals from engaging in labor market activity in 
      Among those who were not in the labor force in April but 
wanted a job, 2.3 million were considered marginally attached to 
the labor force, an increase of 855,000 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 
574,000 in April, little changed over the month.
      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. As in March, special instructions sent to 
household survey interviewers called for all employed people 
absent from work due to coronavirus-related business closures to 
be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. However, not 
all such workers were so classified in April. 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 April) had been classified as unemployed on temporary 
layoff, the overall unemployment rate would have been almost 5 
percentage points higher than reported (on a not seasonally 
adjusted basis). Additional information is available online at
      Summarizing the labor market developments in April, nonfarm 
payroll employment fell by 20.5 million, and the unemployment 
rate increased to 14.7 percent, reflecting the effects on the 
job market of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain 

Last Modified Date: September 23, 2020