Key Highlights

  • Unemployment numbers just one aspect of economy
  • Also consider number of or workers who temporarily laid off to those permanently laid off each month

Most of us thought that COVID layoffs in April, some 18M layoffs or nearly 80%, would be temporary. Turns out our initial thoughts were products of wishful thinking as the number of job losses becoming permanent continues to increase.

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The official number of unemployed workers reported to us on a weekly basis by the US Labor Department tells us only part of the unemployment story. Think of adding together the number of workers temporarily laid off along plus those looking for work in the past four weeks (statistics reported by the Labor Department) AND the number of non-working adults who have not looked for work in the last four weeks even if they want jobs who are considered to be “out of the labor force” and are not officially counted as unemployed.

When combined, the number of unemployed considered to be temporarily laid off AND the number of workers not in the labor force who want a job totaled 32M in April, according to the Department of Labor Statistics. Now compare the number of jobless people who were out of the labor force but who wanted a job in April 2020, 9.8M, to those same people who were not in the labor force but wanted a job in September 2020, 7.0M.

Also look at the number of jobless people who have stayed out of the job market for family or transportation reasons. In April, that number was 1.5M and in September, that number was 1.1M.

Taken together, we have more nuanced thinking about the economy six months after the initial COVID pandemic outbreak.

Numbers of temporarily laid-off workers reported by the Labor Department have steadily declined.   There are now “only” 12M people considered to be unemployed by the Labor Department, or close to twice as many unemployed now than before the pandemic hit. (January = 6.5M unemployed; March = 7.5M unemployed; April = 23M unemployed – highest number since Great Depression; September = 12M unemployed, all according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

 Two things on top of these above statistics: the Labor Department indicated last week that nearly 5M people are approaching long term joblessness over the next two months.   And, the participation of women in the job market during the month of September dropped to its lowest level since 1987.

Numbers of permanently laid-off workers, however, have increased. January =1.4M permanently laid off; April = 2.0M permanently laid off; September = 3.7M permanently laid off for a total of 7.0M permanently laid-off workers in September.

Bottom line…different areas of the economy have suffered differently from the coronavirus. The construction industry has brought back more than half of the jobs it lost in April. The real estate industry has lost -3% of its jobs. The leisure and hospitality industries have not brought back even close to half of the +8M jobs it lost in April. And to top it off, more than one-third of small businesses nation-wide have already or will within six months close permanently.


Thanks to Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Labor Department, and The New York Times.

Also read: Podcast: Hot Rod Your Real Estate Sign for Maximum Lead Generation, 39% of Home Sold At or Above Listing Price in 2019, New Weekly Unemployment Claims Dip Below 1M for First Time in Five Months

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