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The share of no-income couples in the US is skyrocketing

A man hugging a woman, both with masks on.
AP/John Locher
Out of work together.
By Dan Kopf
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Covid-19 has destroyed the US job market. In April, the US unemployment rate reached nearly 15%, up from 3.5% in February. Job losses have been concentrated among low-wage and female workers.

The virus has also led to a spike in married couples with neither member employed. Some 11% of married couples with one partner between 25 and 54 years old had no earners in April, according to Quartz’s analysis of US Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Monthly employment data on couples is available going back to 1976, and this is by far the highest rate of dual-unemployed couples on record. The share of couples with no earners never rose higher than 7% during the Great Recession.


The share of couples where only one member has a job grew from 32% in April 2019 to 38% in April 2020, while the share in which both have a job fell from 63% to 51%. The last time only 51% of US couples were both employed was in 1982, a period when women were 24 percentage points less likely to work than men, compared to 11 percentage points less likely today.

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