THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION -- APRIL 2020
Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent,
the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The changes in these measures reflect the effects of the
coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. Employment fell sharply in all major industry sectors,
with particularly heavy job losses in leisure and hospitality.
This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey measures labor force status,
including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment,
hours, and earnings by industry. For more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these
two surveys, see the Technical Note.
Household Survey Data
In April, the unemployment rate increased by 10.3 percentage points to 14.7 percent. This is the highest rate and
the largest over-the-month increase in the history of the series (seasonally adjusted data are available back to
January 1948). The number of unemployed persons rose by 15.9 million to 23.1 million in April. The sharp increases
in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it. (See table A-1. For more
information about how the household survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, see the box
at the end of the news release.)
In April, unemployment rates rose sharply among all major worker groups. 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. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)
The number of unemployed persons who reported being on temporary layoff increased about ten-fold to 18.1 million in
April. The number of permanent job losers increased by 544,000 to 2.0 million. (See table A-11.)
In April, the number of unemployed persons who were jobless less than 5 weeks increased by 10.7 million to
14.3 million, accounting for almost two-thirds of the unemployed. The number of unemployed persons who were
jobless 5 to 14 weeks rose by 5.2 million to 7.0 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless
for 27 weeks or more), at 939,000, declined by 225,000 over the month and represented 4.1 percent of the unemployed.
(See table A-12.)
The labor force participation rate decreased by 2.5 percentage points over the month to 60.2 percent, the lowest
rate since January 1973 (when it was 60.0 percent). Total employment, as measured by the household survey, fell
by 22.4 million to 133.4 million. 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 (seasonally
adjusted data are available back to January 1948). (See table A-1.)
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. (See table A-9.)
The number of persons at work part time for economic reasons nearly doubled over the month to 10.9 million. 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. This group includes persons who usually work full time and
persons who usually work part time. (See table A-8.)
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 last
4 weeks or were unavailable to take a job. (See table A-1.)
Persons marginally attached to the labor force--a subset of persons not in the labor force who currently want a
job--numbered 2.3 million in April, up by 855,000 over the month. These individuals were not in the labor force,
wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but had not looked
for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed
that no jobs were available for them, numbered 574,000 in April, little changed from the previous month.
(See Summary table A.)
Establishment Survey Data
Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, after declining by 870,000 in March. The April
over-the-month decline is the largest in the history of the series and brought employment to its lowest level
since February 2011 (the series dates back to 1939). Job losses in April were widespread, with the largest
employment decline occurring in leisure and hospitality. (See table B-1. For more information about how the
establishment survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus, see the box note at the end of the news
In April, employment in leisure and hospitality plummeted by 7.7 million, or 47 percent. Almost three-quarters of the
decrease occurred in food services and drinking places (-5.5 million). Employment also fell in the arts, entertainment,
and recreation industry (-1.3 million) and in the accommodation industry (-839,000).
Employment declined by 2.5 million in education and health services in April. In health care, employment declined by
1.4 million, led by losses in offices of dentists (-503,000), offices of physicians (-243,000), and offices of other
health care practitioners (-205,000). Employment also declined in social assistance (-651,000), reflecting job losses
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.
Professional and business services shed 2.1 million jobs in April. Sharp losses occurred in temporary help services
(-842,000) and in services to buildings and dwellings (-259,000).
In April, employment in retail trade declined by 2.1 million. Job losses occurred in clothing and clothing accessories
stores (-740,000), motor vehicle and parts dealers (-345,000), miscellaneous store retailers (-264,000), and furniture
and home furnishings stores (-209,000). By contrast, the component of general merchandise stores that includes warehouse
clubs and supercenters gained 93,000 jobs.
In April, manufacturing employment dropped by 1.3 million. About two-thirds of the decline was in durable goods
manufacturing (-914,000), which saw losses in motor vehicles and parts (-382,000) and in fabricated metal products
(-109,000). Nondurable goods manufacturing shed 416,000 jobs.
Employment in the other services industry declined by 1.3 million in April, with nearly two-thirds of the decline
occurring in personal and laundry services (-797,000).
Government employment dropped by 980,000 in April. Employment in local government was down by 801,000, in part reflecting
school closures. Employment also declined in state government education (-176,000).
Construction employment fell by 975,000 in April, with much of the loss in specialty trade contractors (-691,000). Job
losses also occurred in construction of buildings (-206,000).
Employment fell in transportation and warehousing in April (-584,000). Transit and ground passenger transportation and
air transportation lost 185,000 jobs and 141,000 jobs, respectively.
Wholesale trade shed 363,000 jobs in April, largely reflecting losses in the durable and nondurable goods components.
Employment in financial activities fell by 262,000 over the month, with the vast majority of the decline occurring in
real estate and rental and leasing (-222,000).
Employment in information fell by 254,000 in April, driven by a decline in motion picture and sound recording
Mining lost 46,000 jobs in April, with most of the decline occurring in support activities for mining (-33,000).
In April, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by $1.34 to $30.01. Average
hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by $1.04 to $25.12 in April. The
increases in average hourly earnings largely reflect the substantial job loss among lower-paid workers; this change,
along with earnings increases, put upward pressure on the average hourly earnings estimates. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)
The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 34.2 hours in April. In
manufacturing, the workweek declined by 2.1 hours to 38.3 hours, and overtime declined by 0.9 hour to 2.1 hours. The
average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to
33.5 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised down by 45,000 from +275,000 to +230,000, and
the change for March was revised down by 169,000 from -701,000 to -870,000. With these revisions, employment changes
in February and March combined were 214,000 lower than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional
reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the
recalculation of seasonal factors.)
The Employment Situation for May is scheduled to be released on Friday, June 5, 2020, at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).
| Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact on April 2020 Establishment and Household Survey Data |
| Data collection for both surveys was affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The household |
| survey is generally collected through in-person and telephone interviews, but personal interviews |
| were not conducted for the safety of interviewers and respondents. The household survey response |
| rate, at 70 percent, was about 13 percentage points lower than in months prior to the pandemic. |
| In the establishment survey, approximately one-fifth of the data is collected at four regional data |
| collection centers. Although these centers were closed, about half of the interviewers at these |
| centers worked remotely to collect data by telephone. Additionally, BLS encouraged businesses to |
| report electronically. The collection rate for the establishment survey in April was 74.9 percent, |
| essentially unchanged from collection rates prior to the pandemic. |
| In the establishment survey, workers who are paid by their employer for all or any part of the pay |
| period including the 12th of the month are counted as employed, even if they were not actually at |
| their jobs. Workers who are temporarily or permanently absent from their jobs and are not being |
| paid are not counted as employed, even if they are continuing to receive benefits. The length of |
| the reference period does vary across the respondents in the establishment survey; one-third of |
| businesses have a weekly pay period, slightly over 40 percent a bi-weekly, about 20 percent |
| semi-monthly, and a small amount monthly. |
| There was a change to the estimation method used in the establishment survey for April. Business |
| births and deaths cannot be adequately captured by the establishment survey as they occur. Therefore,|
| the establishment survey estimates use a model to account for the relatively stable net employment |
| change generated by business births and deaths. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the |
| relationship between the two was no longer stable in April. Therefore, the establishment survey |
| made modifications to the birth-death model. For more information, see |
| www.bls.gov/cps/employment-situation-covid19-faq-april-2020.pdf. |
| In the household survey, individuals are classified as employed, unemployed, or not in the labor |
| force based on their answers to a series of questions about their activities during the survey |
| reference week (April 12th through April 18th). Workers who indicate they were not working during |
| the entire survey reference week and expect to be recalled to their jobs should be classified as |
| unemployed on temporary layoff. In April, there was an extremely large increase in the number of |
| persons classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. |
| However, there was also a large increase in the number of workers who were classified as employed |
| but absent from work. As was the case in March, special instructions sent to household survey |
| interviewers called for all employed persons absent from work due to coronavirus-related business |
| closures to be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. However, it is apparent that not all |
| such workers were so classified. |
| 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). However, according to usual practice, the data |
| from the household survey are accepted as recorded. To maintain data integrity, no ad hoc actions |
| are taken to reclassify survey responses. |
| More information is available at www.bls.gov/cps/employment-situation-covid19-faq-april-2020.pdf. |