(CNN) – The United States lost 20.5 million jobs in April, when the coronavirus crisis devastated the country’s labor market, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. It was the largest month of job loss since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began tracking the data in 1939.
The unemployment rate rose to 14.7%, the highest on record since BLS began its monthly series in 1948. The last time US unemployment was so severe was in the Great Depression: the unemployment rate reached 24.9 % in 1933, according to BLS annual historical estimates.
LOOK: 1 in 5 workers has applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March in the US
Those losses come after sharp cuts in March, when employers cut 870,000 jobs. Those two months amount to layoffs so severe that they more than double the 8.7 million jobs lost during the financial crisis.
For many Americans who lost their jobs and their homes in the 2008 financial crisis, this moment reopens old wounds. It took years to recover from those setbacks.
When the economy finally slowed, American employers added 22.8 million jobs in 10 years. A victory for all those who had endured the Great Recession.
LOOK: Unemployment in the United States has not been as severe since the 1930s
Now, the coronavirus pandemic itches not only because of the public health crisis it has caused, but also because it eliminated that decade of job gains in just two months.
According to all reports, it has been a devastating two months for American workers.
The unemployment rate, which comes from a household survey, probably underestimates the number of unemployed Americans. This is because the BLS only considers people as “unemployed” when they have been out of a job but have actively sought a new job in the previous four weeks. Or, if they were a “temporary dismissal” with the expectation of being rehired within the following six months.