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Minorities hit especially hard by pandemic-driven unemployment

The U.S. Department of Labor reported more than 20 million jobs were lost in April, driving unemployment to its highest level since the Great Depression. Among some minorities, the economic toll of the pandemic is even more dire. But more businesses across the country are reopening, many with new safety procedures in place to try to reduce the virus’ spread. Will they work? Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The coronavirus pandemic has now taken the U.S. economy back to some of its darkest days in memory.

    New unemployment data put the situation in stark relief today. And the human cost continued to mount, with some 77,000 dead.

    Amna Nawaz reports on this day's developments.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Long lines at food banks and empty restaurants, snapshots of a shattered economy ravaged by COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Labor Department reported more than 20 million jobs were lost last month, driving unemployment to 14.7 percent, its highest point since the Great Depression.

    Bartender Sara Barnard was among those who recently lost her job.

  • Sara Barnard:

    I thought it was like kind of just a joke. I was like, OK, well, this is going to last like a week, and then they're going to be like, OK, everything is settling down, you can go back to work.

    I had no idea that it would be two-plus months and, like, still, we have no idea of when we're going to be able to open.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Among some minorities, already hard hit by the pandemic's health crisis, the economic toll became even more dire. Among black Americans, unemployment jumped to more than 16 percent. For Hispanics, the figures are even more jarring, with unemployment hitting 18 percent.

    According to one recent poll, 61 percent now say they have experienced some sort of household income loss. That's compared with 46 percent of Americans overall.

    President Trump reacted as the numbers rolled out this morning during a phone interview with "FOX & Friends":

  • President Donald Trump:

    Those jobs will all be back, and they will be back very soon. And next year, we are going to have a phenomenal year.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But many economists have warned that repercussions will be felt for months, maybe years to come.

    And even the president remains vulnerable to the pandemic's reach. The White House confirmed today that a staffer for Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the virus.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I'm not worried. But, look, I get things done. I don't worry about things. I do what I have to do. We're taking very strong precautions at the White House, but, again, we're dealing with an invisible situation.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Also today, lawyers for Dr. Rick Bright, a Health and Human Services official ousted from his post, said a federal watchdog found he was removed in retaliation for opposing the stockpiling of a malaria drug touted by the president as treatment.

    And another report, this one looking at the Small Business Administration's first rollout of billions of dollars in aid, says the agency didn't stick to congressional rules and set restrictions that could actually hurt borrowers.

    Meanwhile, states across the country continue to wrestle with how to mitigate the financial fallout. In California, some stores and factories deemed low risk were back in business today, including Ginger Lee's Los Angeles florist shop, packed with the Mother's Day rush.

  • Ginger Lee:

    Yes, it's been a struggle, but I think we're going to be OK if we all follow the rules and maintain, like they say, wear the mask, social distance. I think we will be OK.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In Texas, new safety measures, including face shields and glass barriers, were put into place at nail and hair salons before reopening.

  • Woman:

    I'm going to keep myself behind my client, never in front of my client.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Businesses are now navigating how to safely reopen in more than half of all U.S. states moving to ease pandemic restrictions. Though some state leaders are taking those steps without meeting White House benchmarks, others are moving more cautiously. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo:

    You can pull up the countries that reopened because they had political pressure, and then saw that infection go right through the roof, and then they did a 180 degree turnaround two weeks later, whoops, we made a mistake. I don't want to do a, whoops, we made a mistake.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But governments across the world are weighing when and how to accept those risks.

    In South Korea, recently relaxed restrictions led to a new cluster of cases, all linked to nightclubs in Seoul. Officials ordered them closed for a month. The country had seen its lowest daily spike in cases earlier this week, but now even plans to reopen some schools next week could be delayed.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Back in this country, a new Oversight Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives demanded today that large public corporations return funds they received from a program that was designed to help small business.

    And Wall Street shrugged off the dismal jobs report, as investors bet that the worst is over. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 455 points to close at 24331. The Nasdaq rose 141 points, and the S&P 500 added 48.

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