More than 11 million laid off in March as coronavirus spread through US

More than 11 million Americans were laid off in March as the coronavirus pandemic and the desperate measures adopted to fight it devastated the U.S. economy, according to data released by the Labor Department on Friday.

The number of U.S. workers laid off or fired by their employers rose to 11.4 million in March from roughly 1.8 million February. Layoffs and other discharges made up nearly all of the 14.5 million employee separations in March as the pandemic forced thousands of businesses to close or restrict their operations.

The percentage of U.S. workers separated from their jobs rose to 9.6 percent in March from 3.7 percent in February, while the portion laid off or fired rose to 7.5 percent in March from 1.2 percent the prior month.

While layoffs are a normal and expected part of a dynamic economy, the record-breaking surge in March reflects the start of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Heidi Shierholz, policy director at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, noted that 24 million American have filed new claims for unemployment benefits since the end of March, tweeting that Friday’s data “only shows the beginning of the devastation.”

“The human suffering and lost productive potential represented by these numbers is immeasurable,” she continued.

The number of open jobs also dropped from roughly 7 million in February to just under 6.2 million in March, while the number of new hires dropped from nearly 5.9 million to 5.2 million. 

The new hires and job postings most likely occurred in the beginning of March in the weeks before shutdowns and social distancing restrictions took hold throughout the U.S. 

The U.S. has lost at least 21.4 million jobs since the March jobs report, which only captured the start of the economic collapse driven by the pandemic. Roughly 36 million American have filed new claims for unemployment benefits since then, and the unemployment rate has spiked to 14.7 percent as of April, the highest level since the Great Depression.

“The March data were just a prelude to the catastrophic job losses recorded in April,” wrote Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics, a research consultancy, in a Friday note.

“While some jobs will be recouped as the economy recovers, we expect the employment shortfall to persist into 2021.”

Tags Coronavirus layoffs Unemployment

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