COVID-19: March Unemployment Report Could Show 2 Million Jobs Lost

From October 2008 until April 2009, the economy lost over 700,000 jobs per month. March 2020 could be much worse than that. Early indications are that the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment report could show 2 million jobs lost this month.

Goldman Sachs predicts that jobless claims for this week will hit 2.25 million, an all-time record. The number was 281,000 last week. The Goldman figure may be exaggerated because the data collected was anecdotal, but it could be directionally correct. Figures by industry may be a better way to get to an accurate number.

Hilton, MGM and Marriott laid off tens of thousands of workers. Although they did not give exact numbers, many of their hotels were closed, either fully or partially. Hilton employs 173,000 workers, about a third of whom are in the United States. Marriott employs 174,000 people worldwide. MGM employs 63,000. At a 20% layoff rate, just three hotel companies have let 82,000 people go.

The total employment across all American hotels is 2.3 million. A 20% layoff figure would mean 460,000 jobs. The industry claims that hotels support other industries. It says that the total pool of that support drives 8.3 million jobs.

The airline industry employs about 740,000 people. Like hotels, it creates other jobs in related industries across the economy. With many airlines, cutting overseas routes by 75% and domestic ones by 20% or more, a 10% layoff rate would claim 74,000 jobs directly and more indirectly.

The restaurant industry is probably the hardest hit one at this point. The industry employs over 15 million people. Almost every major city in the United States, and presumably, many smaller cities, have completely closed restaurants or sharply restricted their operations. These businesses may have revenue that has dropped to zero. Ten percent of this industry is 1.5 million jobs.

These large industries are among the hardest hit, but a number of industries have been badly battered. There is no way to measure layoffs at the hundreds of thousands of smaller companies across the country. Small businesses, which are those with fewer than 500 employees, represent over 30 million American jobs.

Could the economy shed 2 million jobs in March? Yes, and perhaps more.

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