The pandemic’s historic toll on jobs

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

  • The 22.3 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 9.4 million unrecovered jobs still represented the worst annual U.S. job losses since tracking began in 1939 (See jobs history graphic).
  • The net 9.4 million jobs lost in 2020 also is greater than the losses over two years of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.
  • The breakdown by industry shows that although job losses were greatest in Leisure & Hospitality, job losses were significant in all industries. The latest tallies into 2021 show that the numbers of recovered and unrecovered jobs remain broad based.
  • Expectations for a full jobs recovery from the pandemic should be tempered by the cautionary tale found in the “Great Recession” – seven years after which the two hardest hit industries (manufacturing & construction) still had 2.1 million unrecovered jobs. That “unrecovery” was hidden by outsized gains in other industries.



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