Shock: 2020 Saw More U.S. Hiring Than Ever Before

A man pushes his way through a winter snowstorm in Atlantic City, N.J., Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. A massive winter storm swept from the Carolinas to Maine on Thursday, dumping snow along the coast and bringing strong winds that will usher in possible record-breaking cold. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
AP/Matt Rourke

The year 2020 saw more hiring than ever before in American history.

Seventy-million hires occurred despite the burden of the pandemic, the most in records that date back to the late 1990s, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Labor.

There were also more involuntary discharges and layoffs last year. The same data set shows 75 million layoffs, leaving the country with a 5 million employment gap.

The data, which comes from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, include people who may have been hired or layed off more than once in the year. In total, there were around 150 million Americans employed at the end of 2020, down 8.7 million from a year earlier.

The data show that monthly layoffs spiked higher than monthly hires in March and April, another first time event. But layoffs through the rest of the year continued to run at or below historically normal levels.

Hiring spiked in May and June, reaching the highest level ever, and then continued at historically normal levels until they declined again in December.

This rapid gyration of the economy is very different from the last recession. Hiring fell steeply from October 2007 and kept declining until June of 2009, a painful twenty-month drag. And once hiring began to recover, it did so at a snail’s pace. Hiring did not reach the 2007 level until 2015, deep into President Barack Obama’s second term.

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