Millions More People Were Jobless Due to COVID-19 Than Indicated by Official Statistics

Heinrich Hock, NORC at the University of Chicago
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The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 23 million Americans were unemployed as of April 2020. While these numbers may seem shocking, the official count may exclude up to 8 million more who lost jobs or stopped looking for work between February and April. The rate of undercounting was particularly high for young adults and people with less education. Understanding the full impact of COVID-19 is important for policy decisions regarding support for the unemployed and vulnerable populations.

Infographic: COVID-19 Effects on U.S. Labor Force

Official unemployment rates include only people who are actively seeking work or on layoff with a clear expectation of being recalled to a job. This definition could result in a massive undercount during the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders that make it hard to search for work or result in uncertain job prospects.

This brief uses Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide a clearer picture of the impact of COVID-19 on joblessness.

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