A high unemployment rate is tragic and does not even include everyone who is out of work

A high unemployment rate is tragic and does not even include everyone who is out of work


Millions of laid-off Americans did not actively look for new jobs in April, so they were not included in official unemployment statistics.

The American job market has gone from historically large to historically terrible in just two months. As companies shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic, they suddenly lay off and lay off millions of employees. The layoffs were so serious, them almost wiped out 10 years of job earnings in just two months and official United States the unemployment rate rose to 14.7% in April.

This marks the highest unemployment rate since the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics started monitoring the monthly data in 1948, and is on par with unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s, for which the BLS compiled annual estimates.

But terrible as it is, the high unemployment rate does not show the extent of the labor crisis. This is because millions of jobless Americans are not counted in that number.

“While the unemployment rate is a valuable metric, there is a reason why we have put many other workforce indicators out there – to take a full look at what’s going on in the workforce,” said Julie Hatch Maxfield, BLS Associate Commissioner who oversees employment and unemployment statistics.

In the government job report – as has been standard for years – workers are considered “unemployed” only if they were out of work is looked for a job in the last four weeks. Or if they were temporarily dismissed, with the expectation of being called back to work within six months.

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But what about the millions of workers who lost their jobs and did it not look for work? With household orders still in place in most states and all activities except the essential ones closed, it just didn’t make sense for most people to start a new job search in April.

Consider all workers who have done regular work before the pandemic and have not started a job search for some time – maybe even years.

This category – jobless people who “want a job now” but “have not looked for work in the previous year” – have flown around 3 million workers per month for most of the last decade, but suddenly it has more than doubled to 6.9 million in April. Since these workers have not looked for new jobs in the past 12 months, they have not been counted in either the unemployment rate or the U6 underemployment rate.

Once you add up all those people

23.1 million + 2.3m + 10.9 million + 6.9 million

Did you understand


millions of workers were out of work or working at shorter hours in April.

This is by far one of the worst months for American workers in modern history.

Data: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Further works by Mark Oliver and Denis Bouquet


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