The Labor Department released the April jobs report on Friday morning, giving Americans a fuller view of the economy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The headline figures are historic: The pandemic has led to 20.5 million jobs lost and the unemployment rate is now 14.7%.
For context, the unemployment rate peaked at 10% during the Great Recession. The current unemployment rate is also the worst since the Great Depression, when the U.S. saw 24.9% unemployment. Also of note: Average hourly earnings increased by $1.34 to $30.01 in the latest report, an indication that job losses are most affecting the country's lowest earners.
Experts say that the April numbers are much more representative of the true economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus epidemic than the report we received a month ago. Even the March jobs report captured just a sliver of the action: Because of the timing of surveys and data collection, the full scope of the unemployment picture wasn't clear until now.
"In the month of March, we weren't really getting the full magnitude of the stay-at-home orders and the effects those were having on businesses," says Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. The April report shows that the crisis, and the government's response to it, are "unprecedented," he says.
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Though Hamrick says this is "a dynamic situation" and "caution remains the order of the day," he and many other economists are predicting a "dramatic snap-back" for the economy and jobs in the third quarter, if the country can get the outbreak under control.
Much of Wall Street seems to believe that the worst of the job losses have passed, too, which is why the stock market has remained buoyant. And, experts point out, people who need a job right now can, in many cases, either get one or set themselves up to succeed.
While many businesses remain shut down, or are in a phase of cautiously reopening, it may seem like a fool's errand to try and job-hunt. But Hannah Morgan, a job search strategist at Career Sherpa, says that it's important to focus on the bright side.
"It's horrible," she says about the pandemic and sky-high unemployment rate, "but we have to remember that 80% of the workforce is still working." Those who did lose their jobs shouldn't give up hope of finding something soon, either, because "just among the top 100 employers in the U.S., they're hiring for more than 650,000 jobs right now."
Prior to the crisis, the U.S. was actually experiencing a labor shortage — that is, there were more available jobs than applicants. The pandemic has obviously reversed that, but all things considered, job seekers were in a relatively good place.
A recent report from Glassdoor shows that while the overall number of job openings nationwide has dropped 27.7% since the beginning of March, as of April 27, there were 4.5 million open jobs. "There are lots of jobs available," Morgan says. "If you need a job today, there's no shortage."
If you want to land one of those jobs, Morgan offers up these key pieces of advice:
1. Determine your game plan. Morgan advises that job seekers first take a step back and think about what they want in their next job. You may need a short-term job to tide you over through the crisis, or you may be looking for your next big career move either in your current field or by pivoting to a new one. Thinking this through will dictate your next steps to some degree, she says.
2. Build your professional profile. Start simple: Update your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Use social media to your advantage, and start engaging with others. This is the time, Morgan says, to put yourself out there (virtually, to the best of your ability) so that when the economy does pick back up again, you'll be well-positioned to get a new job. One way to start is by joining virtual happy hours or attending skill-building or educational webinars on Instagram or Zoom.
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3. Reach out to your network. Tap your own personal network to check in with them, Morgan says. "Talk to somebody you know who does have a job, and see what they know." They may be able to clue you into a job opening at their workplace, or at least find out when their company will start hiring again. Having a referral can be the key to getting your foot in the door at a new employer.
"You're planting that seed," she says. And when it's time to start hiring people again, it'll be an incredible advantage to be "already in the pipeline."
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