Graph reflecting employment downturn

The April Jobs Report: What is the Current US Employment Situation?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their monthly overview of the US employment situation, and the data for April looks discouraging due to the impact of the coronavirus and the efforts to contain it. The labor department jobs report examines a range of US jobs data to gauge the overall health of the US economy, specifically the number of jobs added, the unemployment rate, and what industries are hiring now.


Last Month’s Numbers

Before we get to the April jobs report, let’s revisit March’s US job numbers. Last month, the BLS reported that nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 701,000 jobs. The unemployment rate increased to 4.4% (approximately 7.1 million professionals). A deeper look at the US jobs data and industries hiring in 2020 showed a sharp decline in many areas.

  • Food services and drinking places – 417,000 jobs lost
  • Health care and social assistance – 61,000 jobs lost
  • Professional and business services – 52,000 jobs lost
  • Retail trade – 46,000 jobs lost
  • Construction – 29,000 jobs lost
  • Other services (e.g. personal and laundry services) – 24,000 jobs lost
  • Federal government – 18,000 jobs added


This Month’s Numbers

Due to the spread of the coronavirus and the drastic measures taken to contain it, we saw severe changes to unemployment numbers in April. The April jobs report showed unemployment increased by 10.3% to 14.7%. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the largest monthly increase and highest rate they’ve recorded in the history of the report (they have data as far back as January 1948).

In addition, total nonfarm payroll employment dropped by 20.5 million, and the number of unemployed persons rose by 15.9 million to 23.1 million. Part-time workers accounted for one-third of the employment decline over the month.

Here are some other key statistics from the labor department jobs report:

  • The number of unemployed people on temporary layoff increased almost ten-fold to 18.1 million.
  • The number of unemployed people who were jobless less than 5 weeks jumped 10.7 to 14.3 million. Meanwhile, the number of long-term unemployed people declined to 939,000 and only accounted for 4.1% of the unemployed.
  • The labor force participation rate fell by 2.5% to 60.2%. This is lowest rate since January 1973, when the rate was 60.0%.
  • The number of people employed part time for economic reasons (AKA involuntary part-time workers) almost doubled to 10.9 million.
  • Average hourly earnings for all employees on nonfarm payrolls rose by $1.34 to $30.01 after increasing by $0.11 in March. The increase in hourly earnings is mostly due to the significant job loss of lower-paid workers.

April brought a steep decline in many industries hiring in 2020. We saw the greatest employment change in leisure and hospitality with 7.7 million jobs lost (a 47% decrease), most of which came from food services and drinking places. We also a saw a large drop in education and health services due to job loss in dentist and physician offices, social assistance, and other areas. Here are the industries that were affected in April:

  • Food services and drinking places – 5.5 million jobs lost
  • Education and health services – 2.5 million jobs lost
  • Professional and business services – 2.1 million jobs lost
  • Retail trade – 2.1 million jobs lost
  • Manufacturing – 1.3 million jobs lost
  • Other services (e.g. personal and laundry services) – 1.3 million jobs lost

Key industries like government, construction, transportation and warehousing, wholesale trade, financial activities, and information also saw job loss in April.


Overall, the labor department jobs report suggests that due to the impact of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it, the economy is in poor shape. To track employment numbers and the health of the economy, check back for our summary of the BLS May jobs report on June 5, 2020.

iHire is here to help however we can. Whether you’re looking for a job or searching for candidates to fill your talent pipeline (and prepare for hiring in the future), there’s still plenty of opportunity on iHire.

By Sarah Ballow | May 08, 2020