Brutal jobs report shows deep job losses in March

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the economy lost 701,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate jumped from 3.5% to 4.4%.

Ahead of this morning's jobs report, most projections said the data would be misleading. Because the relevant surveys occurred in the first half of March, and many of the job losses happened in the second half, the expectation was that the figures might paint an overly rosy picture.

It's against this backdrop that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the economy lost 701,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate jumped from 3.5% to 4.4%.

The question isn't whether that jobless rate will keep climbing, but how high it will go. By most estimates, it's likely to reach double digits in the coming months. Indeed, the 4.4% is almost certainly a mirage: in the latter half of March, as the initial unemployment filings help show, the job market got much worse.

As for historical context, a loss of 701,000 jobs in a single month is obviously brutal, and it's in line with the kind of numbers we saw during the Great Recession. There was, for example, a five-month stretch in late 2008 and early 2009 when the economy lost over 700,000 jobs per month, with the worst coming in March 2009, when the economy lost 800,000.

It's likely the jobs report for the current month will be worse. Also note, this morning's data for March is a preliminary assessment that will be revised.

Above you'll find the chart I run every month, showing monthly changes in total jobs since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction: red columns point to monthly changes under the Bush and Trump administrations, while blue columns point to monthly job changes under the Obama administration.