After more than 10 years of monthly job gains, the economy lost jobs in March, according to the monthly jobs report released by the Labor Department. Last month, the U.S. shed 701,000 jobs, causing the unemployment rate to increase from 3.5% to 4.4%. It's the largest month-over-month increase in the unemployment rate since 1975.
Still, many experts are already looking ahead to what comes next. "This crisis is going to create new jobs," says Jedidiah Collins, a certified financial planner who runs the company Rookie to Veteran in Washington state.
Here's what you need to know about the March jobs report.
The March report follows up the last two weekly jobs reports, which showed that 3.3 million and then 6.6 million people applied for unemployment benefits. These numbers are "nothing even remotely close" to what we've seen before, says Scott Colbert, chief economist at Commerce Trust Company in Missouri.
The more recent 6.6 million figure is far and away larger than the 700,000 jobs lost shown by the monthly report. That's because the Labor Department surveyed some workers "before the shutdown began to snowball," explains Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.
"Because of the timing of the survey, the [monthly report] probably is not ugly enough to reflect reality," he says. For that reason, McBride says that "weekly unemployment [reports] will probably be a better indicator of what's happening on the ground" for now.
The official March numbers are also likely skewed because many people haven't yet been able to apply for benefits, as state agencies were mobbed with requests. "People can't even get through to the unemployment office," says Colbert. As a result, he says, "the numbers are clearly under-reported right now."
The good news, though, is that some experts are expecting a swift economic comeback.
While unemployment claims have soared, many people haven't actually lost their jobs. Instead, they've been furloughed, which means that as social distancing rules and essential business shut down orders are lifted, most of those workers should be able to go back to work. That could happen within a couple of months.
"I wouldn't doubt that by the end of May, we've lifted most of the restrictions," Colbert says.
In the meantime, if you think you may qualify to apply for unemployment benefits, do so as soon as possible. Eligibility requirements were expanded as a part of the recent stimulus package, so experts say that even if you're not sure you'll be approved, you should try — and that includes freelancers, gig workers, and the self-employed.
Don't forget about getting health insurance coverage, too. There are options out there if you've lost your job and benefits.
Video by David Fang
Government stimulus checks are set to start reaching people within a couple of weeks. Tax experts say the way to ensure that you get your stimulus check ASAP is to file your 2019 tax return if you haven't yet and sign up for direct deposit through the IRS.
Looking further ahead, nobody knows for sure what the situation will be with the economy on the other side of the coronavirus outbreak, whenever that will be. Some businesses aren't going to survive and more jobs may be lost with them, at least temporarily. New ones will, though, sprout up to take their place, as people find new business models and ways to make money. It's a process called "creative destruction" that occurred during the Great Recession, too.
For instance, restaurants might find it economical to transform into full-time delivery or take-out operations, or at least hire full-time employees to handle those operations, rather than rely on expensive third parties.
There could also be a boom in demand for health-care workers, and in-home care providers, and the business models that employ these types of workers could evolve, too, Collins says.
For now, though, we should stay focused on the jobs that are vacant and the lives that are being disrupted. "This has totally derailed half of America's financial plan," says Collins. But Americans will adapt. The good thing, he says, is that "we're going to see that happen quicker than people expect."
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