But what was especially striking was the decline in the leisure and hospitality sector. The industry lost almost half its payroll jobs over the course of a single month. This wiped out all the net gains in the industry going all the way back to ... 1988:
Needless to say, leisure and hospitality is President Trump’s own industry. We all knew he was a fan of the ’80s, but he probably didn’t intend to take the whole industry back there quite so literally.
The official unemployment rate rocketed to 14.7 percent a figure that understates the severity and extent of the pain. Many people who are now working part-time involuntarily, or who want to work but are not actively looking, are not included in that total. A broader measure of unemployment that includes those groups hit a record-high rate of 22.8 percent.
And even that understates things, since there was also a large increase in the number of workers who were officially classified as “employed but absent from work," some of whom probably should have been counted as unemployed. Take a look at the spike in people absent from work for “other reasons”:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes:
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).https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
A back-of-the-envelope calculation puts the share of un/underemployment at likely over a quarter of workforce. (The “absent for other reasons” figure is only available on a not-seasonally adjusted basis, unfortunately, so is not perfectly comparable to the other numbers above.)
Another way to assess the damage would be to look at the share of the worker-age population that is employed. This fell to its lowest level ever, 51.3 percent. To be fair, the population is older today than in the past, but even so — the one-month drop is enormous:
The big question, of course, is how many of the people who’ve been laid off will be rehired. In Friday’s report, most people officially counted as unemployed (78 percent) said they’re on temporary layoff. That too is a record high, for a series going back to 1967. It’s also comparable to the share who responded to a recent Post poll saying that they expected to get their jobs back.
Let’s hope they’re right. And if not, perhaps a cubic model — such as the much-mocked one created by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, that appeared to suggest coronavirus deaths would cease around mid-May — will offer a happier outcome.