US unemployment rate skyrockets to 14.7%, the worst since the Great Depression

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A person files an application for unemployment benefits on April 16, 2020 , in Arlington, Va.A person files an application for unemployment benefits on April 16, 2020 , in Arlington, Va. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

By Catherine Thorbecke / ABC News

The U.S. economy lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April, pushing the unemployment rate to 14.7% according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

April’s jobs report is the first of the monthly releases to show the extent of the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. In February, the unemployment rate was at a historic low of 3.5%.

“Unfortunately, the magnitude of job losses is something that cannot be contained and total jobs lost — and potentially the unemployment rate — are likely to meet or exceed the infamous statistics from the Great Depression,” Chris Zaccarelli, the chief investment officer for the Independent Advisor Alliance, said in a commentary on the report Friday.

“What can be done differently this time is to dramatically shorten the length of the recession and ideally accelerate the process of getting as many workers as possible back to work as soon as possible,” he added.

Among the hardest-hit sectors were the leisure and hospitality industries — which shed some 7.7 million jobs — though employment fell sharply across all major industries.

Other notable job losses occurred in food and drinking service sectors (which lost 5.5 million jobs), education and health services (which lost 2.5 million jobs) and retail employment (which lost 2.1 million jobs).

Manufacturing employment also fell by 1.3 million.

“If we thought the worst we’d ever see with economic data would be during the financial crisis and Great Recession, the virus proved us wrong,” Mark Hamrick, the senior economic analyst at Bankrate, said in a statement Friday.

“With some 18 million Americans being on temporary layoff, it is reasonable to assume that a number of these posts — we don’t know how many — will be filled once stay-at-home restrictions are lifted,” he added. “This will be among the key areas to watch for possible signs of improvement in the weeks and months to come.”

The unemployment rate spiked indiscriminately among all major groups and hit 13% for adult men and 15.5% for adult women in April. That month, the unemployment rate increased by 10.3 percentage points to 14.7% making it the highest rate and the largest over-the-month increase since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began record keeping in 1948.

Broken down by racial groups, it climbed to 14.2% for White Americans, 16.7% for Black Americans, 14.5% for Asian Americans and 18.9% for Hispanics, according to the BOL data.

President Donald Trump reacted to the latest unemployment figures in an interview live on “Fox and Friends” Friday morning with an unusually optimistic tone, calling for reopening to begin.

“It’s fully expected there’s no surprise, everybody knows this,” he told the outlet. “Well, even the Democrats aren’t blaming me for that, but what I can do is I’ll bring it back.”

“Those jobs will all be back, and they’ll be back very soon, and next year we’re going to have a phenomenal year,” the president added. “People are ready to go. We’ve got to get it open. People are ready to go.”

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