Fed: US unemployment rate could top 30% in Q2 2020

The U.S. may reach more than 30% unemployment for the second quarter of 2020 due to the slowdown in economic activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis published March 24 by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. That estimate translates to a total of some 52.81 million unemployed persons in the second quarter, the Fed said, with about 47 million workers being laid off during that time period. The Fed noted a separate estimate from one of its regional economists, who estimated that 66.8 million people are employed in occupations with a high risk of layoffs, including sales, production and food preparation and services, among others. The Fed's analysis has some caveats, it said. The calculations assume the labor force is constant, and they exclude the fact that some recently unemployed workers may not seek employment. Businesses may also choose to send workers home with pay rather than lay them off, the Fed said. The analysis also did not account for the impact of measures like payroll support for small businesses or changes to unemployment insurance, both of which were addressed in a recently passed federal law.

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