The March jobs report is expected to be ugly. Here’s why it will be just the tip of the iceberg as coronavirus lockdowns spread.

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  • Friday’s March nonfarm payrolls report is expected to show the first contraction of jobs since 2010, raising the unemployment rate to 3.8% from 3.5% in February.
  • Economists expect that nonfarm payrolls declined 100,000 in March, versus adding 273,000 in February.
  • Still, the report won’t show the full scope of the coronavirus’ impact on the labour market as it includes data only through March 14.
  • That means that the 10 million Americans who filed for unemployment insurance in the last two weeks of the month won’t be counted in the March jobs report.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Economists are expecting that the March jobs report will end a record streak of the US economy adding jobs as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll.

The consensus estimate is that Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labour Statistics will show a 100,000 decline in nonfarm payrolls, down from February when the US added 273,000 jobs. That would boost the unemployment rate to 3.8% from 3.5% a month earlier.

If the numbers do come in negative, it will be the first time that jobs have contracted since 2010, ending nearly a decade of labour market expansion.

“We’re really crossing a psychological line in the sand,” Glassdoor economist Daniel Zhao told Business Insider. “If we end that positive streak it’s almost a splash of reality.”

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Friday’s report is the first monthly nonfarm payrolls release amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has already had a severe negative impact on the US economy, which many now consider to be in a recession.

Over the course of March, states across the country ramped up social-distancing guidelines to curb the spread of the disease, banning non-essential business and sending students and workers home.

Still, the March report won’t be a comprehensive picture of the full impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the US job market. That’s because the report will include payroll data only through the week ending March 14.

That means that it won’t count the last two weeks of the month, in which nearly 10 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance after losing their jobs in coronavirus-induced layoffs.


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“It’s going to feel like old news,” Elise Gould, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told Business Insider. “It’s not going to reflect what we’re all seeing as the reality of the economy today.”

For a monthly jobs report that does include those weeks, economists will have to wait for the April nonfarm payrolls release on May 8.

Initial claims with march 12