Employment report for March: US labor market is suffering. But this job report will not show the worst

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In the past few weeks, companies have laid off thousands of workers across the country and in all industries – the hospitality, leisure and travel industries being the hardest hit, with Americans having stopped traveling or even to leave their home.

Now, the focus is on the March Jobs Report, due Friday at 8:30 am ET, the first from the Bureau of Labor Statistics since COVID-19 began sweeping America.

Economists polled by Refinitiv expect 100,000 jobs to fall in March, which will end the continued increase in monthly jobs over 10 years. It would also push the unemployment rate to 3.8%.

The BLS surveys on which the employment report is based were conducted in the second week of March, while the impact of the epidemic on American businesses and workers was still moderate.

Since then, initial claims for unemployment benefits have soared. In the past two weeks ended March 28, nearly 10 million people have applied for unemployment benefits – 3.3 million Americans the first week and 6.6 million the following week. This represents 6% of the American workforce.

Both figures were historical documents at the time of their publication. State labor departments are struggling to keep up with the onslaught of workers who need government help.

The fall in jobs in the March report “will likely be overshadowed by job losses of close to 10 million in April, with an unemployment rate above 10%,” Citi economists said in a note.

The April employment report is due on May 8 and will be a much better measure of the impact of the pandemic on the labor market. Last week, James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Federal Reserve, said that the unemployment rate could reach 30%.

“Unfortunately, we are only at the beginning of this process. There are around 18 million jobs, mostly in the service sector, threatened by social distancing, “said James McCann, senior global economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments, in email comments. McCann thinks unemployment could go up to 12% overall.

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