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Tag Archives: Employment Situation

Looking Back on the 2020 U.S. Labor Market and Economy

I know many of us are glad to see 2020 in the rearview mirror and have higher hopes for 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused so much suffering and hardship for people in the United States and around the world. During these challenging times, it remains important to have good, reliable, timely data. Good data are essential for the public health response to the pandemic and for tracking its economic and social effects, as well as the progress toward recovery. Let’s reflect back on some of the historic measures we saw in 2020.

Throughout the pandemic, the BLS staff and our colleagues across the statistical community have remained on the job to meet the growing needs for high-quality data. We are thankful we have been able to keep working; millions of other people haven’t been so fortunate. In part this is due to the way our work life at BLS changed in 2020. Nearly the entire staff has teleworked full time since March. That means we have needed to figure out new ways to collaborate with each other to continue producing essential data about the economy. That change in work life also meant that many staff members faced the challenges of new care arrangements for young children, schooling—often online—for older children, and keeping all their loved ones safe and healthy.

When the pandemic began in March 2020, many consumers began avoiding stores, restaurants, and other public gatherings to reduce the risk of catching or spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Many businesses and other organizations reduced their operations or closed completely. At the recommendation of public health authorities, many governors and other public leaders issued stay-at-home orders. The economic impact of COVID-19 was breathtaking in its speed and severity.

National employment data. The nation experienced steady employment growth in recent years; BLS recorded average monthly increases in nonfarm employment between about 170,000 and 200,000 from 2016 to 2019. January and February 2020 brought continued job gains before the bottom dropped out in March (down 1.7 million jobs) and especially in April (down 20.7 million). These were the two largest declines in history, dating to 1939. These declines were then followed by the 4 largest increases in history: 2.8 million, 4.8 million, 1.7 million, and 1.5 million. You have to go back to 1983 to find the next highest increase, 1,118,000. Employment in December 2020 was nearly 10 million lower than in February.

Nonfarm payroll employment, January 1970–December 2020

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

National unemployment data. The year started with some record-low unemployment rates. The 3.5-percent unemployment rate in both January and February 2020 tied for the lowest rate since December 1969 (also 3.5 percent). The unemployment rates for several demographic groups were at or near their record lows. For example, the unemployment rate for African Americans in February 2020, at 6.0 percent, was close to the all-time low of 5.2 percent in August 2019.

Then came the pandemic in March 2020. The unemployment rate that month rose 0.9 percentage point to 4.4 percent. In April, the unemployment rate increased by 10.4 percentage points to 14.8 percent, the highest rate and largest one-month increase in history (dating to January 1948). Nearly all demographic groups experienced record-high unemployment rates in April; for example, the rate for Hispanics was a record 18.9 percent, after a record low of 4.0 percent in September 2019. And for the first time since data became available for both groups in 1973, the unemployment rate for Hispanics in April 2020 exceeded the rate for African Americans.

Unemployment rates for selected groups, February, April, and December 2020

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

State unemployment data. We see a similar pattern when looking at state unemployment rates, with record-setting lows early in 2020 followed by record-setting highs. In February, state unemployment rates ranged from a low of 2.2 percent in North Dakota to a high of 5.8 percent in Alaska, with 12 states at their historic lows that month. By April, rates had increased in all states, with 40 states and the District of Columbia setting new highs in that month, and another 7 states cresting in subsequent months. (The state data began in 1976.) State unemployment rates in April ranged from 8.3 percent in Connecticut to 30.1 percent in Nevada. Check out our animated map showing the rapid transformation of state unemployment rates.

Consumer price data. Beyond the job market, the pandemic had a big effect on other aspects of everyday life, including consumers’ buying habits. Toilet paper and wipes were disappearing from store shelves, while fewer people were commuting or traveling. Those trends were reflected in rapid changes in consumer prices.

One-month changes in the Consumer Price Index are typically 0.1 or 0.2 percent; the 0.8 percent decrease in April 2020, was the largest monthly decline since December 2008. The overall change included some large movements in both directions. For example, the price of gasoline declined 20.6 percent in April, the largest one-month decline since November 2008. In contrast, prices for food at home rose by 2.6 percent, the largest monthly increase since February 1974. Looking below the surface even further, several items experienced record one-month price changes, with some records going back over 50 years.

Percent change in consumer prices for selected items in April 2020, seasonally adjusted

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Labor Productivity data. The BLS quarterly measure of labor productivity in the nonfarm business sector compares output to hours worked. If output rises more than hours worked, productivity increases. The pandemic saw large declines in both output and hours starting in mid-March. There was a small decline in labor productivity in the first quarter of 2020, down 0.3 percent, as output declined (-6.4 percent) slightly more than hours worked (-6.1 percent). While we had not experienced declining productivity in nearly 3 years, small increases or decreases in the quarterly change are common. The second quarter saw labor productivity soar by 10.6 percent, the largest increase since 1971, when productivity increased 12.3 percent in the first quarter. The second quarter 2020 increase reflected a greater decline in hours worked (-42.9 percent) than in output (-36.8 percent).

Since its beginnings in 1884, BLS has built consistent data to allow comparisons across the decades. Maintaining this history allows data users to quickly learn “when was the last time.” We also have collected and published new data specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic. Still to come, BLS will release more 2020 data in the coming year. Those new results will add to the unique story of the extraordinary 2020 economy.

Nonfarm payroll employment, January 1970–December 2020
MonthEmployment levelOver-the-month change

Jan 1970

71,176,000-65,000

Feb 1970

71,305,000129,000

Mar 1970

71,451,000146,000

Apr 1970

71,348,000-103,000

May 1970

71,124,000-224,000

Jun 1970

71,029,000-95,000

Jul 1970

71,053,00024,000

Aug 1970

70,937,000-116,000

Sep 1970

70,944,0007,000

Oct 1970

70,521,000-423,000

Nov 1970

70,409,000-112,000

Dec 1970

70,792,000383,000

Jan 1971

70,865,00073,000

Feb 1971

70,807,000-58,000

Mar 1971

70,860,00053,000

Apr 1971

71,036,000176,000

May 1971

71,247,000211,000

Jun 1971

71,254,0007,000

Jul 1971

71,315,00061,000

Aug 1971

71,373,00058,000

Sep 1971

71,614,000241,000

Oct 1971

71,642,00028,000

Nov 1971

71,847,000205,000

Dec 1971

72,109,000262,000

Jan 1972

72,441,000332,000

Feb 1972

72,648,000207,000

Mar 1972

72,944,000296,000

Apr 1972

73,162,000218,000

May 1972

73,469,000307,000

Jun 1972

73,758,000289,000

Jul 1972

73,709,000-49,000

Aug 1972

74,141,000432,000

Sep 1972

74,264,000123,000

Oct 1972

74,674,000410,000

Nov 1972

74,973,000299,000

Dec 1972

75,268,000295,000

Jan 1973

75,617,000349,000

Feb 1973

76,014,000397,000

Mar 1973

76,284,000270,000

Apr 1973

76,455,000171,000

May 1973

76,648,000193,000

Jun 1973

76,887,000239,000

Jul 1973

76,913,00026,000

Aug 1973

77,168,000255,000

Sep 1973

77,276,000108,000

Oct 1973

77,607,000331,000

Nov 1973

77,920,000313,000

Dec 1973

78,031,000111,000

Jan 1974

78,100,00069,000

Feb 1974

78,254,000154,000

Mar 1974

78,296,00042,000

Apr 1974

78,382,00086,000

May 1974

78,549,000167,000

Jun 1974

78,604,00055,000

Jul 1974

78,636,00032,000

Aug 1974

78,619,000-17,000

Sep 1974

78,610,000-9,000

Oct 1974

78,630,00020,000

Nov 1974

78,265,000-365,000

Dec 1974

77,652,000-613,000

Jan 1975

77,293,000-359,000

Feb 1975

76,918,000-375,000

Mar 1975

76,648,000-270,000

Apr 1975

76,460,000-188,000

May 1975

76,624,000164,000

Jun 1975

76,521,000-103,000

Jul 1975

76,770,000249,000

Aug 1975

77,153,000383,000

Sep 1975

77,228,00075,000

Oct 1975

77,540,000312,000

Nov 1975

77,685,000145,000

Dec 1975

78,017,000332,000

Jan 1976

78,503,000486,000

Feb 1976

78,816,000313,000

Mar 1976

79,048,000232,000

Apr 1976

79,292,000244,000

May 1976

79,312,00020,000

Jun 1976

79,376,00064,000

Jul 1976

79,547,000171,000

Aug 1976

79,704,000157,000

Sep 1976

79,892,000188,000

Oct 1976

79,911,00019,000

Nov 1976

80,240,000329,000

Dec 1976

80,448,000208,000

Jan 1977

80,690,000242,000

Feb 1977

80,988,000298,000

Mar 1977

81,391,000403,000

Apr 1977

81,728,000337,000

May 1977

82,088,000360,000

Jun 1977

82,488,000400,000

Jul 1977

82,834,000346,000

Aug 1977

83,075,000241,000

Sep 1977

83,532,000457,000

Oct 1977

83,800,000268,000

Nov 1977

84,173,000373,000

Dec 1977

84,410,000237,000

Jan 1978

84,594,000184,000

Feb 1978

84,948,000354,000

Mar 1978

85,460,000512,000

Apr 1978

86,162,000702,000

May 1978

86,509,000347,000

Jun 1978

86,950,000441,000

Jul 1978

87,204,000254,000

Aug 1978

87,483,000279,000

Sep 1978

87,621,000138,000

Oct 1978

87,956,000335,000

Nov 1978

88,391,000435,000

Dec 1978

88,671,000280,000

Jan 1979

88,808,000137,000

Feb 1979

89,055,000247,000

Mar 1979

89,479,000424,000

Apr 1979

89,417,000-62,000

May 1979

89,789,000372,000

Jun 1979

90,108,000319,000

Jul 1979

90,217,000109,000

Aug 1979

90,300,00083,000

Sep 1979

90,327,00027,000

Oct 1979

90,481,000154,000

Nov 1979

90,573,00092,000

Dec 1979

90,672,00099,000

Jan 1980

90,800,000128,000

Feb 1980

90,883,00083,000

Mar 1980

90,994,000111,000

Apr 1980

90,849,000-145,000

May 1980

90,420,000-429,000

Jun 1980

90,101,000-319,000

Jul 1980

89,840,000-261,000

Aug 1980

90,099,000259,000

Sep 1980

90,213,000114,000

Oct 1980

90,490,000277,000

Nov 1980

90,747,000257,000

Dec 1980

90,943,000196,000

Jan 1981

91,033,00090,000

Feb 1981

91,105,00072,000

Mar 1981

91,210,000105,000

Apr 1981

91,283,00073,000

May 1981

91,296,00013,000

Jun 1981

91,490,000194,000

Jul 1981

91,601,000111,000

Aug 1981

91,565,000-36,000

Sep 1981

91,477,000-88,000

Oct 1981

91,380,000-97,000

Nov 1981

91,171,000-209,000

Dec 1981

90,895,000-276,000

Jan 1982

90,565,000-330,000

Feb 1982

90,563,000-2,000

Mar 1982

90,434,000-129,000

Apr 1982

90,150,000-284,000

May 1982

90,107,000-43,000

Jun 1982

89,865,000-242,000

Jul 1982

89,521,000-344,000

Aug 1982

89,363,000-158,000

Sep 1982

89,183,000-180,000

Oct 1982

88,907,000-276,000

Nov 1982

88,786,000-121,000

Dec 1982

88,771,000-15,000

Jan 1983

88,990,000219,000

Feb 1983

88,917,000-73,000

Mar 1983

89,090,000173,000

Apr 1983

89,364,000274,000

May 1983

89,644,000280,000

Jun 1983

90,021,000377,000

Jul 1983

90,437,000416,000

Aug 1983

90,129,000-308,000

Sep 1983

91,247,0001,118,000

Oct 1983

91,520,000273,000

Nov 1983

91,875,000355,000

Dec 1983

92,230,000355,000

Jan 1984

92,673,000443,000

Feb 1984

93,157,000484,000

Mar 1984

93,429,000272,000

Apr 1984

93,792,000363,000

May 1984

94,098,000306,000

Jun 1984

94,479,000381,000

Jul 1984

94,789,000310,000

Aug 1984

95,032,000243,000

Sep 1984

95,344,000312,000

Oct 1984

95,629,000285,000

Nov 1984

95,982,000353,000

Dec 1984

96,107,000125,000

Jan 1985

96,372,000265,000

Feb 1985

96,503,000131,000

Mar 1985

96,842,000339,000

Apr 1985

97,038,000196,000

May 1985

97,312,000274,000

Jun 1985

97,459,000147,000

Jul 1985

97,648,000189,000

Aug 1985

97,840,000192,000

Sep 1985

98,045,000205,000

Oct 1985

98,233,000188,000

Nov 1985

98,443,000210,000

Dec 1985

98,609,000166,000

Jan 1986

98,732,000123,000

Feb 1986

98,847,000115,000

Mar 1986

98,934,00087,000

Apr 1986

99,121,000187,000

May 1986

99,248,000127,000

Jun 1986

99,155,000-93,000

Jul 1986

99,473,000318,000

Aug 1986

99,588,000115,000

Sep 1986

99,934,000346,000

Oct 1986

100,121,000187,000

Nov 1986

100,308,000187,000

Dec 1986

100,509,000201,000

Jan 1987

100,678,000169,000

Feb 1987

100,919,000241,000

Mar 1987

101,164,000245,000

Apr 1987

101,499,000335,000

May 1987

101,728,000229,000

Jun 1987

101,900,000172,000

Jul 1987

102,247,000347,000

Aug 1987

102,420,000173,000

Sep 1987

102,647,000227,000

Oct 1987

103,138,000491,000

Nov 1987

103,372,000234,000

Dec 1987

103,661,000289,000

Jan 1988

103,753,00092,000

Feb 1988

104,214,000461,000

Mar 1988

104,489,000275,000

Apr 1988

104,732,000243,000

May 1988

104,962,000230,000

Jun 1988

105,326,000364,000

Jul 1988

105,550,000224,000

Aug 1988

105,674,000124,000

Sep 1988

106,013,000339,000

Oct 1988

106,276,000263,000

Nov 1988

106,617,000341,000

Dec 1988

106,898,000281,000

Jan 1989

107,161,000263,000

Feb 1989

107,427,000266,000

Mar 1989

107,621,000194,000

Apr 1989

107,791,000170,000

May 1989

107,913,000122,000

Jun 1989

108,027,000114,000

Jul 1989

108,069,00042,000

Aug 1989

108,120,00051,000

Sep 1989

108,369,000249,000

Oct 1989

108,476,000107,000

Nov 1989

108,752,000276,000

Dec 1989

108,836,00084,000

Jan 1990

109,199,000363,000

Feb 1990

109,435,000236,000

Mar 1990

109,644,000209,000

Apr 1990

109,686,00042,000

May 1990

109,839,000153,000

Jun 1990

109,856,00017,000

Jul 1990

109,824,000-32,000

Aug 1990

109,616,000-208,000

Sep 1990

109,518,000-98,000

Oct 1990

109,367,000-151,000

Nov 1990

109,214,000-153,000

Dec 1990

109,166,000-48,000

Jan 1991

109,055,000-111,000

Feb 1991

108,734,000-321,000

Mar 1991

108,574,000-160,000

Apr 1991

108,364,000-210,000

May 1991

108,249,000-115,000

Jun 1991

108,334,00085,000

Jul 1991

108,292,000-42,000

Aug 1991

108,310,00018,000

Sep 1991

108,336,00026,000

Oct 1991

108,357,00021,000

Nov 1991

108,296,000-61,000

Dec 1991

108,328,00032,000

Jan 1992

108,369,00041,000

Feb 1992

108,311,000-58,000

Mar 1992

108,365,00054,000

Apr 1992

108,519,000154,000

May 1992

108,649,000130,000

Jun 1992

108,715,00066,000

Jul 1992

108,793,00078,000

Aug 1992

108,925,000132,000

Sep 1992

108,959,00034,000

Oct 1992

109,139,000180,000

Nov 1992

109,272,000133,000

Dec 1992

109,495,000223,000

Jan 1993

109,794,000299,000

Feb 1993

110,044,000250,000

Mar 1993

109,994,000-50,000

Apr 1993

110,296,000302,000

May 1993

110,568,000272,000

Jun 1993

110,749,000181,000

Jul 1993

111,055,000306,000

Aug 1993

111,206,000151,000

Sep 1993

111,448,000242,000

Oct 1993

111,733,000285,000

Nov 1993

111,984,000251,000

Dec 1993

112,314,000330,000

Jan 1994

112,595,000281,000

Feb 1994

112,781,000186,000

Mar 1994

113,242,000461,000

Apr 1994

113,586,000344,000

May 1994

113,921,000335,000

Jun 1994

114,238,000317,000

Jul 1994

114,610,000372,000

Aug 1994

114,896,000286,000

Sep 1994

115,247,000351,000

Oct 1994

115,458,000211,000

Nov 1994

115,869,000411,000

Dec 1994

116,165,000296,000

Jan 1995

116,501,000336,000

Feb 1995

116,697,000196,000

Mar 1995

116,907,000210,000

Apr 1995

117,069,000162,000

May 1995

117,049,000-20,000

Jun 1995

117,286,000237,000

Jul 1995

117,380,00094,000

Aug 1995

117,634,000254,000

Sep 1995

117,875,000241,000

Oct 1995

118,031,000156,000

Nov 1995

118,175,000144,000

Dec 1995

118,320,000145,000

Jan 1996

118,316,000-4,000

Feb 1996

118,739,000423,000

Mar 1996

118,993,000254,000

Apr 1996

119,158,000165,000

May 1996

119,486,000328,000

Jun 1996

119,769,000283,000

Jul 1996

120,015,000246,000

Aug 1996

120,199,000184,000

Sep 1996

120,410,000211,000

Oct 1996

120,665,000255,000

Nov 1996

120,961,000296,000

Dec 1996

121,143,000182,000

Jan 1997

121,363,000220,000

Feb 1997

121,675,000312,000

Mar 1997

121,990,000315,000

Apr 1997

122,286,000296,000

May 1997

122,546,000260,000

Jun 1997

122,814,000268,000

Jul 1997

123,111,000297,000

Aug 1997

123,093,000-18,000

Sep 1997

123,585,000492,000

Oct 1997

123,929,000344,000

Nov 1997

124,235,000306,000

Dec 1997

124,549,000314,000

Jan 1998

124,812,000263,000

Feb 1998

125,016,000204,000

Mar 1998

125,164,000148,000

Apr 1998

125,442,000278,000

May 1998

125,844,000402,000

Jun 1998

126,076,000232,000

Jul 1998

126,205,000129,000

Aug 1998

126,544,000339,000

Sep 1998

126,752,000208,000

Oct 1998

126,954,000202,000

Nov 1998

127,231,000277,000

Dec 1998

127,596,000365,000

Jan 1999

127,702,000106,000

Feb 1999

128,120,000418,000

Mar 1999

128,227,000107,000

Apr 1999

128,597,000370,000

May 1999

128,808,000211,000

Jun 1999

129,089,000281,000

Jul 1999

129,414,000325,000

Aug 1999

129,569,000155,000

Sep 1999

129,772,000203,000

Oct 1999

130,177,000405,000

Nov 1999

130,466,000289,000

Dec 1999

130,772,000306,000

Jan 2000

131,005,000233,000

Feb 2000

131,124,000119,000

Mar 2000

131,596,000472,000

Apr 2000

131,888,000292,000

May 2000

132,105,000217,000

Jun 2000

132,061,000-44,000

Jul 2000

132,236,000175,000

Aug 2000

132,230,000-6,000

Sep 2000

132,353,000123,000

Oct 2000

132,351,000-2,000

Nov 2000

132,556,000205,000

Dec 2000

132,709,000153,000

Jan 2001

132,698,000-11,000

Feb 2001

132,789,00091,000

Mar 2001

132,747,000-42,000

Apr 2001

132,463,000-284,000

May 2001

132,410,000-53,000

Jun 2001

132,299,000-111,000

Jul 2001

132,177,000-122,000

Aug 2001

132,028,000-149,000

Sep 2001

131,771,000-257,000

Oct 2001

131,454,000-317,000

Nov 2001

131,142,000-312,000

Dec 2001

130,982,000-160,000

Jan 2002

130,852,000-130,000

Feb 2002

130,736,000-116,000

Mar 2002

130,717,000-19,000

Apr 2002

130,623,000-94,000

May 2002

130,634,00011,000

Jun 2002

130,684,00050,000

Jul 2002

130,590,000-94,000

Aug 2002

130,587,000-3,000

Sep 2002

130,501,000-86,000

Oct 2002

130,628,000127,000

Nov 2002

130,615,000-13,000

Dec 2002

130,472,000-143,000

Jan 2003

130,580,000108,000

Feb 2003

130,444,000-136,000

Mar 2003

130,232,000-212,000

Apr 2003

130,177,000-55,000

May 2003

130,196,00019,000

Jun 2003

130,194,000-2,000

Jul 2003

130,191,000-3,000

Aug 2003

130,149,000-42,000

Sep 2003

130,254,000105,000

Oct 2003

130,454,000200,000

Nov 2003

130,474,00020,000

Dec 2003

130,588,000114,000

Jan 2004

130,769,000181,000

Feb 2004

130,825,00056,000

Mar 2004

131,142,000317,000

Apr 2004

131,411,000269,000

May 2004

131,694,000283,000

Jun 2004

131,793,00099,000

Jul 2004

131,848,00055,000

Aug 2004

131,937,00089,000

Sep 2004

132,093,000156,000

Oct 2004

132,447,000354,000

Nov 2004

132,503,00056,000

Dec 2004

132,624,000121,000

Jan 2005

132,774,000150,000

Feb 2005

133,032,000258,000

Mar 2005

133,156,000124,000

Apr 2005

133,518,000362,000

May 2005

133,690,000172,000

Jun 2005

133,942,000252,000

Jul 2005

134,296,000354,000

Aug 2005

134,498,000202,000

Sep 2005

134,566,00068,000

Oct 2005

134,655,00089,000

Nov 2005

134,993,000338,000

Dec 2005

135,149,000156,000

Jan 2006

135,429,000280,000

Feb 2006

135,737,000308,000

Mar 2006

136,047,000310,000

Apr 2006

136,205,000158,000

May 2006

136,244,00039,000

Jun 2006

136,325,00081,000

Jul 2006

136,520,000195,000

Aug 2006

136,694,000174,000

Sep 2006

136,843,000149,000

Oct 2006

136,852,0009,000

Nov 2006

137,063,000211,000

Dec 2006

137,249,000186,000

Jan 2007

137,477,000228,000

Feb 2007

137,558,00081,000

Mar 2007

137,793,000235,000

Apr 2007

137,842,00049,000

May 2007

137,993,000151,000

Jun 2007

138,069,00076,000

Jul 2007

138,038,000-31,000

Aug 2007

138,015,000-23,000

Sep 2007

138,095,00080,000

Oct 2007

138,174,00079,000

Nov 2007

138,284,000110,000

Dec 2007

138,392,000108,000

Jan 2008

138,403,00011,000

Feb 2008

138,324,000-79,000

Mar 2008

138,275,000-49,000

Apr 2008

138,035,000-240,000

May 2008

137,858,000-177,000

Jun 2008

137,687,000-171,000

Jul 2008

137,491,000-196,000

Aug 2008

137,213,000-278,000

Sep 2008

136,753,000-460,000

Oct 2008

136,272,000-481,000

Nov 2008

135,545,000-727,000

Dec 2008

134,839,000-706,000

Jan 2009

134,055,000-784,000

Feb 2009

133,312,000-743,000

Mar 2009

132,512,000-800,000

Apr 2009

131,817,000-695,000

May 2009

131,475,000-342,000

Jun 2009

131,008,000-467,000

Jul 2009

130,668,000-340,000

Aug 2009

130,485,000-183,000

Sep 2009

130,244,000-241,000

Oct 2009

130,045,000-199,000

Nov 2009

130,057,00012,000

Dec 2009

129,788,000-269,000

Jan 2010

129,790,0002,000

Feb 2010

129,698,000-92,000

Mar 2010

129,879,000181,000

Apr 2010

130,110,000231,000

May 2010

130,650,000540,000

Jun 2010

130,511,000-139,000

Jul 2010

130,427,000-84,000

Aug 2010

130,422,000-5,000

Sep 2010

130,357,000-65,000

Oct 2010

130,625,000268,000

Nov 2010

130,750,000125,000

Dec 2010

130,822,00072,000

Jan 2011

130,841,00019,000

Feb 2011

131,053,000212,000

Mar 2011

131,288,000235,000

Apr 2011

131,602,000314,000

May 2011

131,703,000101,000

Jun 2011

131,939,000236,000

Jul 2011

131,999,00060,000

Aug 2011

132,125,000126,000

Sep 2011

132,358,000233,000

Oct 2011

132,562,000204,000

Nov 2011

132,694,000132,000

Dec 2011

132,896,000202,000

Jan 2012

133,250,000354,000

Feb 2012

133,512,000262,000

Mar 2012

133,752,000240,000

Apr 2012

133,834,00082,000

May 2012

133,934,000100,000

Jun 2012

134,007,00073,000

Jul 2012

134,159,000152,000

Aug 2012

134,331,000172,000

Sep 2012

134,518,000187,000

Oct 2012

134,677,000159,000

Nov 2012

134,833,000156,000

Dec 2012

135,072,000239,000

Jan 2013

135,263,000191,000

Feb 2013

135,541,000278,000

Mar 2013

135,680,000139,000

Apr 2013

135,871,000191,000

May 2013

136,093,000222,000

Jun 2013

136,274,000181,000

Jul 2013

136,386,000112,000

Aug 2013

136,628,000242,000

Sep 2013

136,815,000187,000

Oct 2013

137,040,000225,000

Nov 2013

137,304,000264,000

Dec 2013

137,373,00069,000

Jan 2014

137,548,000175,000

Feb 2014

137,714,000166,000

Mar 2014

137,968,000254,000

Apr 2014

138,293,000325,000

May 2014

138,511,000218,000

Jun 2014

138,837,000326,000

Jul 2014

139,069,000232,000

Aug 2014

139,257,000188,000

Sep 2014

139,566,000309,000

Oct 2014

139,818,000252,000

Nov 2014

140,109,000291,000

Dec 2014

140,377,000268,000

Jan 2015

140,568,000191,000

Feb 2015

140,839,000271,000

Mar 2015

140,910,00071,000

Apr 2015

141,194,000284,000

May 2015

141,525,000331,000

Jun 2015

141,699,000174,000

Jul 2015

142,001,000302,000

Aug 2015

142,126,000125,000

Sep 2015

142,281,000155,000

Oct 2015

142,587,000306,000

Nov 2015

142,824,000237,000

Dec 2015

143,097,000273,000

Jan 2016

143,205,000108,000

Feb 2016

143,417,000212,000

Mar 2016

143,654,000237,000

Apr 2016

143,851,000197,000

May 2016

143,892,00041,000

Jun 2016

144,150,000258,000

Jul 2016

144,521,000371,000

Aug 2016

144,664,000143,000

Sep 2016

144,953,000289,000

Oct 2016

145,071,000118,000

Nov 2016

145,201,000130,000

Dec 2016

145,415,000214,000

Jan 2017

145,612,000197,000

Feb 2017

145,795,000183,000

Mar 2017

145,934,000139,000

Apr 2017

146,154,000220,000

May 2017

146,295,000141,000

Jun 2017

146,506,000211,000

Jul 2017

146,734,000228,000

Aug 2017

146,924,000190,000

Sep 2017

146,966,00042,000

Oct 2017

147,215,000249,000

Nov 2017

147,411,000196,000

Dec 2017

147,590,000179,000

Jan 2018

147,671,00081,000

Feb 2018

148,049,000378,000

Mar 2018

148,244,000195,000

Apr 2018

148,397,000153,000

May 2018

148,667,000270,000

Jun 2018

148,881,000214,000

Jul 2018

149,030,000149,000

Aug 2018

149,259,000229,000

Sep 2018

149,364,000105,000

Oct 2018

149,576,000212,000

Nov 2018

149,668,00092,000

Dec 2018

149,908,000240,000

Jan 2019

150,145,000237,000

Feb 2019

150,095,000-50,000

Mar 2019

150,263,000168,000

Apr 2019

150,482,000219,000

May 2019

150,545,00063,000

Jun 2019

150,720,000175,000

Jul 2019

150,913,000193,000

Aug 2019

151,108,000195,000

Sep 2019

151,329,000221,000

Oct 2019

151,524,000195,000

Nov 2019

151,758,000234,000

Dec 2019

151,919,000161,000

Jan 2020

152,234,000315,000

Feb 2020

152,523,000289,000

Mar 2020

150,840,000-1,683,000

Apr 2020

130,161,000-20,679,000

May 2020

132,994,0002,833,000

Jun 2020

137,840,0004,846,000

Jul 2020

139,566,0001,726,000

Aug 2020

141,149,0001,583,000

Sep 2020

141,865,000716,000

Oct 2020

142,545,000680,000

Nov 2020

142,809,000264,000

Dec 2020

142,582,000-227,000
Unemployment rates for selected groups, February, April, and December 2020
Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicityFebruary 2020April 2020December 2020

Total, 16 years and older

3.514.86.7

White

3.014.16.0

Black or African American

6.016.79.9

Asian

2.414.55.9

Hispanic or Latino

4.418.99.3
Percent change in consumer prices for selected items in April 2020, seasonally adjusted
Expenditure categoryPercent change

Car and truck rental (1998)

-16.6

Airline fares (1989)

-15.2

Hotel and motel lodging (1967)

-8.1

Women’s footwear (1978)

-5.2

Full service meals and snacks (1998)

-0.3

Carbonated drinks (1978)

4.5

Household paper products (1997)

4.5

Cookies (1978)

5.1

Chicken (2004)

5.8

A Closer Look at Recent Employment Trends

BLS has closely tracked the upheaval in the U.S. job market in recent months, most notably through the monthly “payroll jobs” data. These data, from the Current Employment Statistics survey, provide detail on the change in employment in each industry. We count jobs by asking thousands of employers every month the number of employees on their payroll for the pay period that includes the 12th of the month. For August, we reported that employers added 1.4 million jobs. Today I want to scratch beneath that surface and examine recent employment trends in several industries.

But before I go on, let me take a moment to thank all those businesses that respond voluntarily to our request for information every month. With so much going on, responding to a BLS survey may not be your highest priority. Yet, you continue to come through every month, and for that we extend our sincere thanks.

Using February 2020 as our starting point, let’s look at the job losses that occurred through April. From the nearly 152 million jobs recorded in February, we lost just over 22 million by the end of April. That’s a drop of 14.5 percent in total nonfarm employment. But that decline varied across industries. The leisure and hospitality industry, including restaurants, hotels, and amusements, saw the largest percentage decline, down 49.3 percent from February. Other industries saw percentage declines similar to the overall total, such as retail trade (decline of 15.2 percent) and construction (decline of 14.2 percent). And some industries experienced small declines, such as financial activities (decline of 3.2 percent). These differences stem from many factors, including stay-at-home orders, the need for workers in essential industries, the ability for some work to be done remotely, and on and on.

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Following large losses through April, many industries gained jobs over the next four months. By August, about 10.6 million jobs were added to employer payrolls. One way to look at these figures is to consider what share of the March/April job loss was “recovered” by the May/June/July/August job gain. Overall, 47.9 percent of the decline was recovered. The retail trade industry restored the greatest percentage of job losses, 72.5 percent, followed by other services (including barbers and salons, 61.2 percent) and construction (60.8 percent). Education and health services recovered 47.6 percent of lost jobs, nearly equal to the overall percentage of jobs recovered, as did manufacturing (47.2 percent). Utilities, mining and logging, and the information industry had fewer jobs in August than in April.

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

While the percentages let you compare industries, digging a little deeper uncovers other interesting stories. For example, three sectors, professional and business services; manufacturing; and transportation and warehousing, each lost between 10 and 11 percent of jobs from February to April 2020. But those losses amounted to vastly different numbers of jobs: 2.3 million in professional and business services; 1.4 million in manufacturing; and 570,000 in transportation and warehousing.

Some detailed industries provide interesting contrasts. Within health care from February to April, hospital employment showed a slight decline while offices of physicians lost about 11 percent of jobs. In contrast, offices of dentists declined by 56 percent, losing more than half a million jobs. As of August, employment had rebounded in most health care industries, with the notable exception of nursing and residential care facilities, which has declined each month since February.

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Americans were encouraged to stay at home and only venture out for essential items, which is reflected in employment in various retail industries. For example, food and beverage stores showed little employment change from February to August. In contrast, clothing store employment declined by 62 percent through April, and only half of that loss had been recovered by August. Jobs in electronics and appliance stores declined through May and in August stood at about 90 percent of their February total.

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

A reminder that Current Employment Statistics data are updated as new information becomes available. Thus, the July and August data shown here are preliminary and will be revised. Employment data by industry are also available for states and localities.

When looking for trends or comparing industries of different sizes, the comparisons shown here can be helpful. The detailed data are available for you to compare other industries, too. Get the data through the BLS data query system.

Percent decline in payroll employment from February through April 2020, by major industry
IndustryPercent decline

Leisure and hospitality

-49.3

Other services

-23.1

Retail trade

-15.2

Total nonfarm

-14.5

Construction

-14.2

Education and health services

-11.3

Professional and business services

-10.7

Manufacturing

-10.6

Transportation and warehousing

-10.0

Information

-9.8

Mining and logging

-8.5

Wholesale trade

-6.7

Government

-4.3

Financial activities

-3.2

Utilities

-0.7
Percent of payroll employment decline from February to April 2020 that was recovered by August 2020, by major industry
IndustryPercent recovered

Retail trade

72.5

Other services

61.2

Construction

60.8

Leisure and hospitality

50.2

Total nonfarm

47.9

Education and health services

47.6

Manufacturing

47.2

Professional and business services

35.8

Transportation and warehousing

33.2

Financial activities

31.5

Wholesale trade

17.4

Government

14.2

Information

-9.5

Mining and logging

-59.0

Utilities

-86.8
Percent of February 2020 employment level in months after February, selected health care industries
IndustryAprilMayJuneJulyAugust

Offices of physicians

89.291.594.195.296.2

Offices of dentists

43.869.289.093.996.1

Hospitals

97.797.097.197.697.8

Nursing and residential care facilities

96.494.994.393.793.2
Percent of February 2020 employment level in months after February, selected retail industries
IndustryAprilMayJuneJulyAugust

Electronics and appliance stores

89.874.780.286.290.5

Building material and garden supply stores

97.3101.8104.3105.1106.1

Food and beverage stores

98.6100.4101.7101.0101.2

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

38.244.562.470.371.1

Department stores

75.279.490.094.597.5

General merchandise stores, including warehouse stores

104.6106.2109.0105.8110.1

Update on the Misclassification that Affected the Unemployment Rate

How hard can it be to figure out whether a person is employed or unemployed? Turns out, it can be hard. When BLS put out the employment and unemployment numbers for March, April, and May 2020, we also provided information about misclassification of some people. I want to spend some time to explain this issue, how it affected the data, and how we are addressing it.

In the monthly Current Population Survey of U.S. households, people age 16 and older are placed into one of three categories:

  • Employed — they worked at least one hour “for pay or profit” during the past week.
  • Unemployed — they did not work but actively looked for work during the past 4 weeks OR they were on temporary layoff and expect to return to work.
  • Not in the labor force — everyone else (including students, retirees, those who have given up their job search, and others).

Again, how hard can this be? It starts to get tricky when we talk to people who say they have a steady job but did not work any hours during the past week. In normal times, this might include people on vacation, home sick, or on jury duty. And we would continue to count them as employed. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the collapse of labor markets created challenges the likes of which BLS has never encountered. People who reported zero hours of work offered such explanations as “I work at a sports arena and everything is postponed” or “the restaurant I work at is closed.” These people should be counted as unemployed on temporary layoff. As it turns out, a large number of people—we estimate about 4.9 million in May—were misclassified.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate—at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent in February—rose sharply to 4.4 percent in March and to 14.7 percent in April, before easing to 13.3 percent in May. Despite the stark difference from February, we believe the unemployment rate likely was higher than reported in March, April, and May. As stated in our Employment Situation news releases for each of those months, some people in the Current Population Survey (also known as the CPS or household survey) were classified as employed but probably should have been classified as unemployed.

How did the misclassification happen?

We uncovered the misclassification because we saw a sharp rise in the number of people who were employed but were absent from their jobs for the entire reference week for “other reasons.” The misclassification hinges on how survey interviewers record answers to a question on why people who had a job were absent from work the previous week.

According to special pandemic-related interviewer instructions for this question, answers from people who said they were absent because of pandemic-related business closures should have been recorded as “on layoff (temporary or indefinite).” Instead, many of these answers were recorded as “other reasons.” Recording these answers as “on layoff (temporary or indefinite)” ensures that people are asked the follow-up questions needed to classify them as unemployed. It does not necessarily mean they would be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, but I’ll get into that in a moment.

When interviewers record a response of “other reasons” to this question, they also add a few words describing that other reason. BLS reviewed these descriptions to better understand the large increase in the number of people absent from work for “other reasons.” Our analysis suggests this group of people included many who were on layoff because of the pandemic. They would have been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff had their answers been recorded correctly.

What are BLS and the Census Bureau doing to address the misclassification?

BLS and our partners at the U.S. Census Bureau take misclassification very seriously. We’re taking more steps to fix this problem. (The Census Bureau is responsible for collecting the household survey data, and BLS is responsible for analyzing and publishing the labor market data from the survey.) Both agencies are continuing to investigate why the misclassification occurred.

Before the March data collection, we anticipated some issues with certain questions in the survey because of the unprecedented nature of this national crisis. As a result, interviewers received special instructions on how to answer the temporarily absent question if a person said they had a job but did not work because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, we determined that not all of the responses to this question in March were coded according to the special instructions. Therefore, before the April data collection, all interviewers received an email that included instructions with more detailed examples, along with a reference table to help them code responses to this question. However, the misclassification was still evident in the April data. Before the May data collection, every field supervisor had a conference call with the interviewers they manage. In these conference calls, the supervisors reviewed the detailed instructions, provided examples to clarify the instructions, and answered interviewers’ questions.

Although we noticed some improvement for May, the misclassification persisted. Therefore, we have taken more steps to correct the problem. Before the June collection, the Census Bureau provided more training to review the guidance to the interviewers. The interviewers also received extra training aids. The electronic survey questionnaire also now has new special instructions that will be more accessible during survey interviews.

Why doesn’t BLS adjust the unemployment rate to account for the misclassification?

As I explained above, we know some workers classified as absent from work for “other reasons” are misclassified. People have asked why we just don’t reclassify these people from employed to unemployed. The answer is there is no easy correction we could have made. Changing a person’s labor force classification would involve more than changing the response to the question about why people were absent from their jobs.

Although we believe many responses to the question on why people were absent from their jobs appear to have been incorrectly recorded, we do not have enough information to reclassify each person’s labor force status. To begin with, we don’t know the exact information provided by the person responding to the survey. We know the brief descriptions included in the “other reasons” category often appear to go against the guidance provided to the survey interviewers. But we don’t have all of the information the respondent might have provided during the interview.

Also, we don’t know the answers to the questions respondents would have been asked if their answers to the question on the reason not at work had been coded differently. This is because people whose answers were recorded as absent from work for “other reasons” were not asked the follow-up questions needed to determine whether they should be classified as unemployed. Specifically, we don’t know whether they expected to be recalled to work and whether they could return to work if recalled. Therefore, shifting people’s answers from “other reasons” to “on layoff (temporary or indefinite)” would not have been enough to change their classification from employed to unemployed. We would have had to assume how they would have responded to the follow-up questions. Had we changed answers based on wrong assumptions, we would have introduced more error.

In addition, our usual practice is to accept data from the household survey as recorded. In the 80-year history of the household survey, we do not know of any actions taken on an ad hoc basis to change respondents’ answers to the labor force questions. Any ad hoc adjustment we could have made would have relied on assumptions instead of data. If BLS were to make ad hoc changes, it could also appear we were manipulating the data. That’s something we’ll never do.

How much did the misclassification affect the unemployment rate?

We don’t know the exact extent of this misclassification. To figure out what the unemployment rate might have been if there were no misclassification, we have to make some assumptions. These assumptions involve deciding (1) how many people in the “other reasons” category actually were misclassified, (2) how many people who were misclassified expected to be recalled, and (3) how many people who were misclassified were available to return to work.

In the material that accompanied our Employment Situation news releases for March, April, and May, we provided an estimate of the potential size of the misclassification and its impact on the unemployment rate. Here we assumed all of the increase in the number of employed people who were not at work for “other reasons,” when compared with the average for recent years, was due solely to misclassification. We also assumed all of these people expected to be recalled and were available to return to work.

For example, there were 5.4 million workers with a job but not at work who were included in the “other reasons” category in May 2020. That was about 4.9 million higher than the average for May 2016–19. If we assume this 4.9 million increase was entirely due to misclassification and all of these misclassified workers expected to be recalled and were available for work, the unemployment rate for May would have been 16.4 percent. (For more information about this, see items 12 and 13 in our note for May. We made similar calculations for March and April.)

These broad assumptions represent the upper bound of our estimate of misclassification. These assumptions result in the largest number of people being classified as unemployed and the largest increase in the unemployment rate. However, these assumptions probably overstate the size of the misclassification. It is unlikely that everyone who was misclassified expected to be recalled and was available to return to work. It is also unlikely that all of the increase in the number of employed people not at work for “other reasons” was due to misclassification. People may be correctly classified in the “other reasons” category. For example, someone who owns a business (and does not have another job) is classified as employed in the household survey. Business owners who are absent from work due to labor market downturns (or in this case, pandemic-related business closures) should be classified as employed but absent from work for “other reasons.”

Regardless of the assumptions we might make about misclassification, the trend in the unemployment rate over the period in question is the same; the rate increased in March and April and eased in May. BLS will continue to investigate the issue, attempting both to ensure that data are correctly recorded in future months and to provide more information about the effect of misclassification on the unemployment rate.

Ensuring Security and Fairness in the Release of Economic Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is the gold standard of accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible statistical data, and I am committed to keeping it that way. As Commissioner, it is my obligation to do everything possible to protect the integrity of our data and to make sure everyone has equitable access to these data.

One step toward equitable access and data security is coming soon; on March 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will eliminate all electronics from the lock-up facility where we allow members of the media to review economic releases and prepare news stories before the official release of the data. We are changing the procedures to better protect our statistical information from premature disclosure and to ensure fairness in providing our information to the public.

For many years the news media have helped BLS and the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) inform the public about our data. Since the mid-1980s, BLS and ETA have provided prerelease data access to news organizations under strict embargoes, known as “lock-ups.” We have provided this early access consistent with federal Statistical Policy Directives of the Office of Management and Budget. BLS uses the lock-up for several major releases each month, including the Employment Situation and Consumer Price Index. ETA uses the lock-up for the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims data. These economic data have significant commercial value and may affect the movement of commodity and financial markets upon release.

Because of technological advancements, the current lock-up procedure creates an unfair competitive advantage for lock-up participants who provide BLS data to trading companies. Today, the internet permits anyone in the world to obtain economic releases for themselves directly from the BLS or DOL websites. However, unlike media organizations with computer access in the current lock-up, others who use the data do not have up to 30 minutes before the official release to process the data. Their postings about the data may lag behind those released directly from the lock-up at official publication time, 8:30 a.m. Eastern. High-speed algorithmic trading technology now gives a notable competitive advantage to market participants who have even a few microseconds head start. To eliminate this advantage and further protect our data from inadvertent or purposeful prerelease, no computers or any other electronic devices will be allowed in the lock-up.

In recent years, BLS and ETA have devoted significant resources to introducing improved technologies that strengthen our infrastructure and ensure data are posted to the BLS or DOL websites immediately following the official release time.

We at BLS and ETA are committed to the principle of a level playing field—our data must be made available to all users at the same time. We are equally committed to protecting our data. We are now positioned to continue helping the media produce accurate stories about the data, while also ensuring that all parties, including the media, businesses, and the general public, will have equitable and timely access to our most sensitive data.

You can find more details about these changes in our notice to lock-up participants. We also have a set of questions and answers about the changes to the lock-up procedures.

Labor Day 2019 Fast Facts

I have been Commissioner of Labor Statistics for 5 months now, and I continue to be amazed by the range and quality of data we publish about the U.S. labor market and the well-being of American workers. As we like to say at BLS, we really do have a stat for that! We won’t rest on what we have done, however. We continue to strive for more data and better data to help workers, jobseekers, students, businesses, and policymakers make informed decisions. Labor Day is a good time to reflect on where we are. This year is the 125th anniversary of celebrating Labor Day as a national holiday. Before you set out to enjoy the long holiday weekend, take a moment to look at some fast facts we’ve compiled on the current picture of our labor market.

Working

Working or Looking for Work

  • The civilian labor force participation rate—the share of the population working or looking for work—was 63.0 percent in July 2019. The rate had trended down from the 2000s through the early 2010s, but it has remained fairly steady since 2014.

Not Working

  • The unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in July. In April and May, the rate hit its lowest point, 3.6 percent, since 1969.
  • In July, there were 1.2 million long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). This represented 19.2 percent of the unemployed, down from a peak of 45.5 percent in April 2010 but still above the 16-percent share in late 2006.
  • Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 12.8 percent in July 2019, while the rates were 3.4 percent for both adult women and adult men. The unemployment rate was 6.0 percent for Blacks or African Americans, 4.5 percent for Hispanics or Latinos, 2.8 percent for Asians, and 3.3 percent for Whites.

Job Openings

Pay and Benefits

  • Average weekly earnings rose by 2.6 percent from July 2018 to July 2019. After adjusting for inflation in consumer prices, real average weekly earnings were up 0.8 percent during this period.
  • Civilian compensation (wage and benefit) costs increased 2.7 percent in June 2019 from a year earlier. After adjusting for inflation, real compensation costs rose 1.1 percent over the year.
  • Paid leave benefits are available to most private industry workers. The access rates in March 2018 were 71 percent for sick leave, 77 percent for vacation, and 78 percent for holidays.
  • About 91 percent of civilian workers with access to paid holidays receive Labor Day as a paid holiday.
  • In March 2018, civilian workers with employer-provided medical plans paid 20 percent of the cost of medical care premiums for single coverage and 32 percent for family coverage.

Productivity

  • Labor productivity—output per hour worked—in the U.S. nonfarm business sector grew 1.8 percent from the second quarter of 2018 to the second quarter of 2019.
  • Some industries had much faster growth in 2018, including electronic shopping and mail-order houses (10.6 percent) and wireless telecommunications carriers (10.1 percent).
  • Multifactor productivity in the private nonfarm business sector rose 1.0 percent in 2018. That growth is 0.2 percentage point higher than the average annual rate of 0.8 percent from 1987 to 2018.

Safety and Health

Unionization

  • The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 10.5 percent in 2018, down by 0.2 percentage point from 2017. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.

Work Stoppages

  • In the first 7 months of 2019, there have been 307,500 workers involved in major work stoppages that began this year. (Major work stoppages are strikes or lockouts that involve 1,000 or more workers and last one full shift or longer.) For all of 2018, there were 485,200 workers involved in major work stoppages, the largest number since 1986, when about 533,100 workers were involved.
  • There have been 15 work stoppages beginning in 2019. For all of 2018, 20 work stoppages began during the year.

Education

  • Occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry made up 22 percent of employment in 2018. This educational category includes registered nurses, teachers at the kindergarten through secondary levels, and many management, business and financial operations, computer, and engineering occupations.
  • For 18 of the 30 occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026, some postsecondary education is typically required for entry. Be sure to check out our updated employment projections, covering 2018 to 2028, that we will publish September 4!

From an American worker’s first job to retirement and everything in between, BLS has a stat for that! Want to learn more? Follow us on Twitter @BLS_gov.