Economists polled by Refinitiv expect the US economy to shed another 8 million jobs in May, bringing the tally of jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic to 28.5 million — more than three times the number of jobs lost during the 2008 financial crisis.
That would push the unemployment rate to nearly 20%, a record high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is set to release its jobs report at 8:30 am ET Friday, began tracking monthly data in 1948.
The only silver lining: we might be nearing the peak.
It will get worse before it gets better
May, or perhaps June, will be the worst of the labor market crisis, before the unemployment rate rapidly declines in the second half of the year, economists at Goldman Sachs predict. The exact timing, however, comes down to how many people will return to work — and how quickly.
However, the trend didn’t hold in Thursday’s report. Continuing claims stood at 21.5 million, slightly up from the prior week and more than expected. The data suggests that the labor market recovery will be slow.
Still, more than one in four American workers — nearly 43 million people in total — has now filed for first time unemployment benefits during this crisis and this week’s 1.8 million new claims were still nearly 10 times higher than before the pandemic. The economic pain is far from over.
Rehiring is hard to do
Although many economists are predicting the unemployment rate will fall rapidly as people return to work, the coronavirus economy might not recover quickly.
Oxford Economics expects the unemployment rate will remain at 10% by the end of the year.
Even when businesses welcome workers back, they might only offer reduced hours, forcing more people into involuntary part-time jobs.
There is a lot of uncertainty over what the US labor market will look like over the summer. With some luck, the worst is over and the rebuilding can begin.