The bureau said that as the coronavirus forced a widespread U.S. economic shutdown, many Americans lost their jobs.
The development marked a sharp decline from the revised job gains for February and was far deeper than the 100,000 job losses forecast by economists.
Reports said the latest report includes only data through March 14, meaning it does not count the last two weeks of the month, a period that saw 10 million Americans file for unemployment insurance.
The development makes it the first time the monthly report has shown jobs lost since 2010 — even as the world continues to battle the effect of the virus on global economy.
In addition, the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 4.4 per cent from 3.5 per cent in February.
The situation in the U.S. rapidly deteriorated in March as cases of COVID-19 spiked and the virus was officially declared a pandemic.
On Thursday, confirmed cases of COVID-19 passed 1 million globally, with more than 50,000 deaths.
While the contraction remains worrisome, the report still does not show the full extent of coronavirus damage on U.S. jobs. Details showed that the report includes the week and pay period that ended March 14, so anyone who worked during that week is counted as employed, even if they were laid off midweek.
On March 16, President Donald Trump recommended strict guidelines to slow the coronavirus’ spread. The guideline included closing schools, avoiding large groups, avoiding nonessential travel, and staying away from bars and restaurants.
Media reports said that the strict guidelines dramatically slowed parts of the economy by encouraging people to stay at home and practice social distancing. That led to massive spikes in unemployment-insurance filings as workers were laid off by businesses considered to be nonessential.
Over the two weeks that ended March 28, a record 10 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance.
Many economists forecast further pain and an inevitable recession ahead as the world continues to battle the spread of the virus. In the United States, analysts are forecasting negative gross domestic product in the second quarter, showing a contracting economy.
Bank of America is forecasting as many as 20 million job losses and a 15.6% unemployment rate in the “deepest recession on record.”
As layoffs continue, the percent without jobs could spike.
In Nigeria, although the general impact of the pandemic on the economy is already being felt, its effect on jobs still remain unknown in the absence of data.
The last time the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released the unemployment report was December 2018.
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In the report, Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018.
The statistics bureau added that the ‘economically active’ or working age population (15 – 64 years of age) increased from 111.1 million in Q3 2017 to 115.5 million in Q3 2018.
Last month, as parts of efforts to contain the effects of the coronavirus on the nation’s economy, the Nigerian government announced plans to halt recruitment exercises in the public service.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said that government resolved to stop recruitment, except for essential services such as security and health services. It has also resolved to strictly restore and comply with the Civil Service Retirement Regulations, she added.
“The other policy matters that have been discussed for implementation is for the administration to stop recruitment, except for essential services such as security and health services and to also restore and comply by the Civil Service Retirement Regulations,” she explained.
Similarly, the economic advisory council said in March that Nigeria would have to work hard to keep its head above the waters of economic troubles due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Doyin Salami-led council said the crisis could trigger slower growth, uncertainty, oil glut, trade imbalance, drop in foreign reserves and rise in unemployment.
The last major recruitment exercise done by the Nigerian government was carried out in February when the NNPC recruited 1,050 graduate trainees.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced industries to halt production amid lockdown in major cities of the world as governments strengthen efforts to contain the spread of the virus.