The pandemic’s historic toll on jobs

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The pandemic caused U.S. job losses that are historic for their speed and scale. The impact is notable in various ways:

  • The 22 million jobs lost in March and April of 2020 were the most jobs lost in the shortest time—even compared with the Great Depression.
  • Although more than half the lost jobs were recovered by the end of 2020, the 9.3 million unrecovered jobs still represented the worst annual U.S. job losses since tracking began in 1939 (See jobs history graphic).
  • The net 9.3 million jobs lost in 2020 also is greater than the losses over two years of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.
  • July 2022 marked a milestone in the pandemic economic recovery – and a hidden “unrecovery.” Total jobs gained since mid-2020 have finally eclipsed the 21.99 million jobs lost in March-April of 2020. That recovery, however, has occurred because of outsized gains in certain industries – such as professional & business services – that hide persisting job losses in other sectors led by leisure & hospitality, and government jobs.
  • The hidden “unrecovery” in 2022 mirrors what happened after the “Great Recession” – seven years after which the two hardest hit industries (manufacturing & construction) still had 2.2 million unrecovered jobs.

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