Reflections on the April 2020 BLS Report


Today, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Employment Situation report for April 2020. This release was expected to show the substantial hit on the economy caused by COVID-19 and that’s exactly what we see.  

Overall, total employment fell by 20.5 million in April, and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7%This unemployment rate is a 10.3% increase since the March report – the largest over-the-month increase since the BLS started tracking in 1939 and has brought unemployment to its highest level since February 2011. These drastic changes are a direct result of the Coronavirus and the United States’ attempts to prevent its spread. 

Unemployment graphs from BLS employment situation April 2020Graphs from BLS Employment Situation Report

As Americans spent the entire month of April under varying degrees of stay-at-home orders placed by local and state governments, and ‘nonessential’ businesses were forced to remain closedconsumer spending saw an unprecedented decline.  

Industries hardest hit by these containment measures are restaurants, retail stores, travel, and entertainment services. This is shown in the data as most losses were seen most prominently in leisure and hospitality (-7.7 million jobs, about 47%), with the greatest losses specifically in food services and drinking places (-5.5 million positions). Employment also fell drastically in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry (-1.3 million) and in the accommodation industry (-839,000).  

In hiring, with unemployment numbers climbing drastically, we would expect to see job searches steadily climbing as well. However, Talroo Insights™  data for April has actually continued to show less job seeker activity. This is likely a result of increased unemployment wages, the stimulus checks sent to Americans, and continued attempts to socially distance. 

In May, we are seeing many states begin to let stay-at-home orders expire and ‘nonessential’ businesses reopen. As businesses begin to resume operations, we expect to see some furloughed and laid off workers return to their jobs, and weekly joblessness rates to continue to slow. Our Insights™ data has already shown a slight reversal in job seeker activity this month as more people are ready to get back to work. 

What happens next though will depend greatly on whether reopening leads to a spike in COVID-19 cases, potentially forcing another round of stay-at-home orders. Only time will tell.  

Topics: Recruiting Industry

Updated May 8, 2020