Data shows people who lost jobs in April appear to be back at work

Photo: Farhad Sadykov via Flickr

Even after unemployment claims skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study found that a decent chunk of those who were laid off or furloughed in April went back to work by May.

About one-third of US workers laid off or furloughed during the pandemic were back in work two months later, according to a new study conducted by researchers from Ohio State University. The study found that most of the workers returned to the same jobs they had before the pandemic, which makes the results interesting considering how rapidly jobs were disappearing amid the outbreak.

Ninety percent of workers who reclaimed jobs after cuts in April either returned to the same industry or occupation. The study, published as a working paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research, is an encouraging sign but it’s too early to know whether this trend will continue, warned one of the study’s authors.

“We have never had a situation like this where so many people have lost their jobs so suddenly and had them brought back so quickly,” Bruce Weinberg, a professor of economics at Ohio State University, said in a press release. “We’re still trying to understand how labor markets function in these unique conditions.”

Using data from several sources, including the federal Current Population Survey and Google searches, researchers were able to track cell phone usage at work locations. While they cautioned that it wasn’t definite as to whether a reemployed person went back to their old job, the data showed that more than 90% returned to the same industry and occupation. That in itself suggests that workers who were furloughed are coming back to work.

“The people least likely to go back to work in May were those who had been unemployed the longest,” said Wei Cheng, lead author of the study.

“Their chance of getting a job was lower this year than it was in the same period in 2019.”