Payroll employment drops 701,000, with deeper losses expected. Also: another record-high week for unemployment claims.

This morning’s employment report puts stark numbers to the ravages of the pandemic. 

Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 701,000 in March, and the unemployment
rate rose to 4.4 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
The changes in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19)
and efforts to contain it. Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000,
mainly in food services and drinking places. Notable declines also occurred in
health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail
trade, and construction.

As bad as that is, the data represent only part of the story, writes Julia Wolfe at FiveThirtyEight.

Next month’s report will almost certainly be far worse, and this month’s will likely be revised down in the months to come.

But one thing we know with relative certainty: The situation will get worse before it gets better. The household survey, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to estimate the unemployment rate, was in the field the second week of March. While some businesses had already shut down temporarily by then, plenty of areas — some of the most populated areas, in fact — hadn’t yet called for closures.

The Associated Press reports,

The monthly job loss reported Friday by the government, the worst since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, is still just a small indication of what’s to come. Last month’s actual losses were likely even larger because the government surveyed employers before the heaviest layoffs hit in the past two weeks. 

The report follows yesterday’s news that claims for unemployment insurance spiked. Again. According to the U.S. Department of Labor,

In the week ending March 28, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 6,648,000, an increase of 3,341,000 from the previous week’s revised level. This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series. The previous week’s level was revised up by 24,000 from 3,283,000 to 3,307,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,612,000, an increase of 1,607,750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 6,000 from 998,250 to 1,004,250.

Washington Research Council economist Kriss Sjoblom analyzed the data for our state in a blog post yesterday.

This morning the state Employment Security Department reported that it received 181,975 new claims for unemployment insurance during the March 22-28 week. This is an increase of 53,013 over the 128,962 (revised) claims filed during the preceding week. The four-week moving average of claims is 82,910 39, up from 38,838 for the preceding week.

We estimate that the seasonally adjusted 4-week average of initial claims was was 92,980, up from 44,860 in the preceding week.

Seattle Times business reporter Paul Roberts writes that the impact is felt throughout the state.

Thursday’s numbers portrayed a state job market suffering across all industries and locations. While King County continued to lead the state for total new claims, with 44,613, up 20% from a week earlier, losses were sharper elsewhere as the wave of economic disruption moved outward.

A tough way to end the week.