New survey shows 34 million jobs have been lost since mid-March

Economists’ Real Time Population Survey releases labor market estimates weeks ahead of government and suggests unprecedented changes in the U.S. labor market.

Graph detailing decrease in employment rate.
A new biweekly survey conducted by economists from VCU and Arizona State University finds an employment rate of 55.8% among working-age adults in the week of April 12-18. Data in the above chart from Jan. 12-March 8 derived from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey, while more recent data derived from responses to the VCU/ASU survey. (Skye Shannon, VCU School of Business)

About 10 million jobs have been lost in the United States since early April — making the total jobs lost since mid-March about 34 million — according to a new biweekly survey conducted by economists from Virginia Commonwealth University and Arizona State University. The findings indicate an employment rate of 55.8% among working-age adults in the week of April 12-18. 

“The size of these changes are hard to fathom,” said Adam Blandin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the VCU School of Business. “In the Great Recession, it took over a year for the employment rate to decline 5 percentage points. Our estimates suggest that the employment rate has fallen more than twice as much in the last month.”

In the two weeks since Blandin and Alexander Bick, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics at Arizona State, conducted the first wave of their Real Time Population Survey, many unemployed workers have simply stopped searching for a job, Blandin said. “Even many of those who still have jobs are earning less. We find that 42% of those who were working in February have experienced a loss in earnings.” 

Portrait of Adam Blandin.
Adam Blandin, Ph.D.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts the Current Population Survey once a month and publishes results with a three-week delay. The latest results of the Real Time Population Survey reference the same time period — April 12-18 — as the Current Population Survey results that will not be released until May 8. In addition to closely following the methodology of the government survey, the professors’ labor market survey also includes a suite of questions specifically tailored to the present economic situation — such as queries about child care and commuting practices.

Estimates from the first two waves of the survey suggest unprecedented changes in the U.S. labor market since the most recent Current Population Survey data from March 8-14. Among the key findings:

  • In the week of April 12-18, the employment rate was 55.8% among working-age adults, which implies 10 million jobs lost since early April, and 34 million lost since mid-March.
  • The unemployment rate declined slightly since early April to 16.2% because the labor force participation rate fell, implying fewer individuals are looking for work.
  • Among those who were employed in February, 42% have experienced a loss in earnings.
  • Declines in employment were initially concentrated among women, but recently have shifted toward men. Disparities by age and education have persisted, with losses concentrated among older and less-educated workers.

Blandin and Bick will release the next wave of survey results on May 8, referencing the week of April 26 through May 2.  To subscribe to receive future results, visit https://sites.google.com/view/covid-rps/.

 

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 30,000 students in 233 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-two of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.