Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released the following statement after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7%. The unemployment rate was 16.7 % for Black workers and 18.9 % for Latino workers.

Job losses in April were more than 25 times worse than the worst month of the Great Recession. Since the federal government began tracking the unemployment rate in 1948, the highest national unemployment rate ever recorded by BLS was 10.8% in 1982. In just the month of April, the unemployment rate increased by 10.3 percentage points. Unemployment at the height of the Great Depression was 24.9%. 

“We have not seen horrible, history-making numbers like these since the Great Depression.

“In two months, almost a decade’s worth of job growth has been wiped out, the unemployment rate has more than quadrupled, and more than 75,000 Americans have died because President Trump did not take seriously multiple early warnings about the global threat of the coronavirus and failed to lead a competent fight against it. This is President Trump’s economic legacy—cracks in the economy as a result of his trade wars and tax cuts have now split wide open as a result of his ignorance and incompetence.

“It could be months before the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs are able to return to work. If we expect them to stay home to stop the spread of the virus, then we need to make sure they can take care of themselves and their loved ones for as long as the public health and economic crises last.

“A legislative proposal I introduced this week with Senators Reed and Bennet would extend unemployment benefits until states’ unemployment rates drop to acceptable levels. We should not penalize people for not having a job when there are no jobs to be had. I hope the legislation is included in the next coronavirus relief package.”

This week, Congressman Beyer and Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) released a draft legislative proposal for the Worker Relief and Security Act, legislation that would ensure that assistance for unemployed workers continues automatically for the duration of the public health crisis even in the absence of action by Congress. The legislation has been endorsed by Janet Yellen and other leading economists, as well as top House Democrats.

A recent report released by JEC Democrats on the importance of making assistance for unemployed workers continuous can be found here.

About Congressman Beyer

Congressman Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Previously, Beyer served at Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and Ambassador to Switzerland and built a successful family business over the course of four decades.