Survey: U.S. Workers Have Lost $1.3 Trillion in Income During Pandemic

Resource Management) and Oxford Economics puts a price on the economic pain inflicted by COVID-19, as U.S. workers have lost an estimated $1.3 trillion—roughly $8,900 per worker. Notably, 20 percent of this loss represents earnings of those who remain employed, suggesting job-losses alone are an incomplete account of COVID-19’s impact on workers. The latest findings from the COVID-19 Business Index also examines the long-term consequences, forecasting a slow recovery for larger cities and smaller communities alike.

Key findings include: 

  • $1.3 trillion in income has been lost by the U.S. workforce, 20 percent ($260 billion) of which represents earnings from employed workers;
  • By the end of 2021, only 20 percent of metropolitan areas and 11 percent of smaller communities will recover employment levels seen before the outbreak;
  • Nearly four in 10 smaller communities are not expected to recover pre-COVID-19 employment levels by the end of 2024.

(See the new Index here.)

“It’s literally impossible to overstate the magnitude of $1.3 trillion,” said SHRM President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. “A stack of one million hundred-dollar bills would be 3.3 feet—the height of a chair. A stack of one trillion? That’d tower 631 miles high—2.5 times higher than the International Space Station. But let’s bring it back down to earth because this isn’t just some abstract number: We’re talking about lives and livelihoods. That’s why, hard as it is to look at, leaders need to see this data. This is our reality—and it underscores the urgency with which we must move to safely reopen and return to work.”

“Job loss and wage reduction have cost United States workers $1.3 trillion as of late April and this amount has surely grown in lockstep with rising unemployment,” said Dan Levine, head of the Oxford Economics’ location strategies practice. “In many communities, it may take years to replace the jobs lost in a matter of weeks.” 

The COVID-19 Business Index will be updated on a bi-weekly basis through June 2020, providing business leaders and government officials with a pulse on the state of business in the U.S. during the evolving economic crisis.


Media: Contact Julie Hirschhorn at and 703-842-5152 or Cooper Nye at and 703-535-6447.

Methodology: Twice each month, a panel of roughly 1,000 HR professionals within the United States are asked a recurring series of questions about their organizational response to the crisis, including changes in employment and shifting HR strategies. This report covers the second iteration of the survey, fielded between 4/27/2020 and 5/1/2020, and includes 875 respondents.

About SHRM

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today’s evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM.