40% of low-income Americans lost their jobs in March and April, according to Fed

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Car line up at a drive-thru Three Square Food Bank emergency food distribution site at Boulder Station Hotel & Casino in response to an increase in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 29, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Three Square is currently operating dozens of emergency distribution sites at various times and dates throughout Southern Nevada to assist a growing number of people, many recently unemployed. (Photo by David Becker / AFP) (Photo by DAVID BECKER/AFP via Getty Images)

DAVID BECKER

Nearly 40% of lower-income Americans lost work as the coronavirus pandemic began its assault on the U.S. economy, according to the Federal Reserve.

One in 5 adults who were working in February reported being laid off or furloughed in March or early April, according to a Fed report published Thursday. (A furlough is a temporary layoff.)

However, the economic downturn disproportionately affected lower-income Americans.

Thirty-nine percent of people with a household income below $40,000 lost work over that period, according to the report, an annual survey of U.S. household finances.

Conversely, that was true for just 19% of Americans with a household income between $40,000 and $100,000, according to a Fed spokesperson.

For those with an income exceeding $100,000, the disparity was even greater: Only 13% lost work.

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This data doesn’t capture the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs since early April.

More than 36 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits over the past two months.

The unemployment rate soared to 14.7% in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the highest level since the Great Depression, when the unemployment rate is estimated to have exceeded 20%.

The leisure and hospitality industry, which pays the lowest average hourly wage compared with other industries, has experienced the most layoffs compared with other sectors of the economy, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Employment loss has substantially impacted the financial well-being of families, according to the Fed.

Among those who lost a job or had their hours reduced, 70% reported an income decline, impacting their ability to pay bills.

Only 64% of those with a job loss or reduction in hours expected to be able to pay their bills in full in April, compared with 85% of those without an employment disruption, according to the Fed.

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