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The Industries Hit Hardest By The Unemployment Crisis


On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that 2.98 million more Americans had filed for unemployment insurance in the previous week, bringing the total for claims since March 8 up to 36.8 million. Last week’s jobs report for the month of April estimated the national unemployment rate at 14.7 percent, and Thursday’s report implies that perhaps another 2.5 percent of the labor force has filed for benefits since the beginning of May.Using data from the most recent jobs report, I dug into changes in total nonfarm employment by sector from February — the last full month before the coronavirus-triggered economic crisis truly began — to April, starting at the ”supersector” level, or the most broadly grouped parts of the economy:

Which major industries are hit hardest by unemployment?

Economic “supersectors” by percent change in seasonally adjusted nonfarm employees from February to April 2020

Employees (millions)
Supersector Feb. Mar. Apr. 2 mo. % chg.
Leisure and hospitality 16.9 16.4 8.7 -48.3%
Other services 5.9 5.9 4.6 -22.0
Construction 7.6 7.6 6.6 -13.2
Trade, transportation and utilities 27.8 27.8 24.7 -11.2
Education and health services 24.6 24.5 21.9 -10.8
Manufacturing 12.9 12.8 11.5 -10.6
Professional and business services 21.6 21.5 19.3 -10.4
Information 2.9 2.9 2.6 -8.9
Mining and logging 0.7 0.7 0.7 -8.0
Government 22.7 22.7 21.7 -4.4
Financial activities 8.8 8.8 8.6 -3.0


Over the past few months, every single major area of the U.S. job market has shrunk at least some. But it’s clear that the leisure and hospitality industry was hurt far more than any other. In February, nearly 17 million Americans worked in that supersector, which comprises the arts, entertainment and recreation sector — including spectator sports and gambling — and the accommodations and food services sector. By April, that number had fallen by nearly 50 percent, to just 8.7 million.

The leisure and hospitality fields suffered heavy job losses

Percent change in seasonally adjusted leisure and hospitality employees from February to April 2020, by supersector, sector and subsector

Employees (millions)
Industry Feb. Mar. Apr. 2 mo. % chg.
All leisure and hospitality 16.9 16.4 8.7 -48.3%
Arts, entertainment and recreation 2.5 2.4 1.1 -54.5
Performing arts and spectator sports 0.5 0.5 0.3 -45.4
Museums, historical sites and similar institutions 0.2 0.2 0.1 -26.1
Amusements, gambling and recreation 1.8 1.8 0.7 -59.9
Accommodation and food services 14.4 13.9 7.6 -47.3
Accommodation 2.1 2.0 1.2 -42.3
Food services and drinking places 12.3 11.9 6.4 -48.1


Nearly all the jobs in this supersector involve some form of in-person services rendered for gatherings of people — which, of course, became impossible to maintain when social distancing requirements were put in place by local authorities. As such, leisure and hospitality businesses were always going to struggle under the pandemic’s terrible constraints. Every subsector of this industry has lost at least 25 percent of its employees since February, and most have lost 40 percent or more. Among all the sectors and subsectors tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of April,