Almost 80 percent of newly unemployed Americans say they expect to eventually be called back to work by their most recent employer, a statistic economists are calling a glimmer of hope in April's otherwise devastating jobs report.
The Labor Department on Friday reported 23.1 million people are unemployed, with 18.1 million, or 78.4 percent, saying they had been temporarily furloughed.
"The good news is that nearly all of the increase in joblessness since February is due to the increase in furloughed employees — those on temporary layoff," said Mercatus Center economist Michael D. Farren. "This is completely different than a standard recession, when most of the joblessness is created by permanent layoffs."
Furloughs, economists say, are preferable to layoffs because they allow employers to staff up quickly once a recovery takes hold.
Robert Frick, corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union, said the high percentage of temporarily unemployed workers in the April report was "hopeful."
"The number of those jobs restored and the speed at which they come back are crucial to how much damage the economy suffers, the length and depth of the recession and the speed of the recovery," he said.
Policymakers have focused on keeping people attached to their jobs, offering tax credits to large companies and forgivable loans to small businesses that keep workers on payroll.
But the unemployment numbers are just a snapshot of the labor market. As the crisis progresses and states begin reopening, some workers may find that furloughs have become permanent job losses.
The April jobs report only covered data gathered during the second week of the month, meaning all eyes will be on the May report to see just how temporary those 18.1 million job losses are.