The US unemployment rate for April skyrocketed to 14.7 per cent, according to government data released on Friday, as the coronavirus and lockdowns sharply battered the economy.

Total non-farm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

The numbers represent the highest rate and the largest monthly increase in the modern history of the data, which goes back to 1948.

Due to methodological issues, the data does not fully reflect the economic damage caused by the pandemic in the second half of the month, meaning the real number is likely higher. The number was slightly below analysts’ expectations.

“It was fully expected, it’s no surprise,” US President Donald Trump said in an immediate reaction to the numbers, as he was in middle of a live interview on Fox News. Regarding the economy, he promised: “I’ll bring it back.”

Since mid-March, when the pandemic caused large segments of the economy to stall, more than 33 million US people have filed for unemployment benefits.

The White House has already cautioned the figure could go up to 20 per cent by June, which would match some of the worst numbers during the Great Depression. The high in the 1930s was 25 per cent.

During the financial crisis and Great Recession, the unemployment number peaked at 10 per cent in 2009.

Prior to the pandemic, more than 150 million people were employed in the US and the unemployment rate was hovering at record lows.

Polling has shown a strong sense of unease about the job market going ahead. While most of the newly jobless are technically in a position of having temporarily lost their positions, it is unclear how many of the jobs will really return.

“We are in for a long, gradual recovery,” Neel Kashkari, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said this week.

Some states have already taken their first steps in allowing businesses to get back to work. The White House has begun to shift its focus towards re-opening the economy as much as possible. More state are due to follow.

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