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Coronavirus Blamed for Historic US Unemployment Rate in April

A man wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus walks past a closed Dolce & Gabbana store, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in New York. The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs last month. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Coronavirus Blamed for Historic U.S. Unemployment Rate in April
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The United States economy lost 20.5 million jobs last month. That represents the sharpest increase in the number of jobless Americans since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

It is the strongest evidence yet of how much damage the novel coronavirus is causing the world’s biggest economy.

The U.S. Labor Department released its monthly employment report Friday. It shows April’s unemployment rate rising to 14.7 percent from a historically low 4.4 percent a month earlier. That sets a record for the highest jobless rate since World War II. The old record was 10.8 percent in November of 1982.

The new unemployment report strengthens economists’ expectations of a slow recovery from the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The report provides evidence of the economic damage resulting from new public safety measures. Many states and local governments announced stay-at-home orders in March to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The weak economic conditions could hurt President Donald Trump’s efforts to win a second term in office. The U.S. presidential elections will take place six months from now.

Trump has said he wants to reopen the economy although the number of COVID-19 infections continues to rise.

“Our economy is on life support now,” said Erica Groshen, a former commissioner of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. “We will be testing the waters in the next few months to see if it can emerge safely,” she added.

Groshen now works for the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

FILE - A worker wears a protective mask at the Volkswagen assembly line after VW re-started Europe's largest car factory after a coronavirus shutdown, in Wolfsburg, Germany, April 27, 2020.
FILE - A worker wears a protective mask at the Volkswagen assembly line after VW re-started Europe's largest car factory after a coronavirus shutdown, in Wolfsburg, Germany, April 27, 2020.

Europe’s economic health

Separately, a new survey shows how much the conoravirus pandemic is affecting European economies. It shows that business activity across the continent shrunk last month.

The new survey numbers come from IHS Markit’s final Composite Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) for the euro zone. The index is said to be a good sign of the economic health of European Union countries.

The PMI for April 2020 fell to 13.6 percent, compared to 29.7 percent in March. The Reuters news agency says that represents the lowest reading since the very first survey in 1998.

Germany’s service industry recorded its weakest performance ever. It reduced overall private sector activity in Europe’s largest economy to historically low levels.

French service providers saw a collapse in business activity because of a nationwide lockdown. New public health measures have forced all but non-essential businesses, like supermarkets and drug stores, to close.**

Italy’s service industry shrank last month at its fastest rate in more than 22 years.

Other studies have shown business activity across Asia and the Americas also ground to a halt last month.

I’m John Russell.

The Reuters news agency reported on this story. George Grow adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

**Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story accidentally left out the word "but."


Words in This Story

pandemic – n. when a disease affects a large area and affects a large number of people

emerge – v. to become known; to rise from; to come into being

survey – n. questioning a group of people to gather information or their opinions

sector – n. an economic or political subdivision of a society or country

lockdown – n. an emergency measure in which people are temporarily prevented from entering or leaving a restricted area because of a danger or health threat

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