These charts look back at the labor market in 2020 amid the pandemic

  • Although the year started with a low unemployment rate of 3.5% in February alongside steady job growth, the coronavirus pandemic quickly changed the employment situation of millions of Americans.
  • The US lost 22 million jobs in the spring, but only 12.3 million jobs have been added since then.
  • The following 12 charts based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Labor highlight the labor market in 2020.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The pandemic has had a devastating toll on millions of Americans this year, putting many families in difficult financial situations.

Lockdowns, pandemic-related closures, and the spread of the disease itself have put millions of Americans out of work and uncertain about when they will find a new job. Millions of households are behind on rent and at risk of eviction, with some experiencing food insecurity for the first time. Businesses across the entire economy are struggling to stay afloat.

The US lost around 22 million jobs in the spring. Although around half of the jobs have been added back as of November, recovery in the labor market has been slowing. Over 10.7 million Americans are still unemployed, around double the number of people out of work in February. 

State lockdowns and restrictions early in the pandemic led to the closure of non-essential businesses. As a result, a record 11.4 million people were laid off in March. Some retailers and restaurants filed for bankruptcy this year as they struggled to stay afloat, like J.Crew and FoodFirst Global Restaurants. And looking ahead, some companies are looking to make job cuts as they struggle financially. For instance, Disney recently announced a round of layoffs of 32,000 workers next year due to revenue loss.

Additionally, a majority of small businesses reported that the pandemic has negatively impacted their firms. Per Census data, 30.7% of small businesses in the Small Business Pulse Survey said the pandemic has caused a large negative effect to their business. The accommodation and food services, education services, and arts and entertainment business sectors were especially hard-hit according to that survey. And almost 100,000 businesses have permanently closed so far as a result of the pandemic.

The extra $600 in unemployment benefits and the $1,200 per person stimulus checks from the CARES Act this spring helped some Americans financially. But, more Americans fell below the poverty line in the summer after that extra federal aid expired.

Some Americans were disproportionately hit more than others by the pandemic, such as women and non-white workers. Within industries, recovery has not been equal, where sectors that pay less than others, such as certain parts of the leisure and hospitality industry, have been affected by business closures and a decline in demand amid the pandemic.

And the road to recovery in the US will likely take years. Moody’s Analytics predicts it will take four years to recover from the millions of jobs lost in March and April.  

But there is hope on the horizon, as vaccines are starting to be approved and have already distributed to some healthcare workers.

As we head into next year with hopes of job recovery and a successful roll out of the vaccines, Insider looked back at changes in unemployment and employment during 2020:

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