The Massachusetts unemployment rate surged above 15 percent in April, smashing four-and-a-half decades of records as the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting public shutdowns caused massive job losses.

State labor officials announced Friday that Massachusetts shed 623,000 jobs in April, the first full month during which nonessential businesses were ordered to close their physical locations to employees and customers and most residents were urged to stay at home whenever possible.

From March to April, the unemployment rate increased 12.3 percentage points, to 15.1 percent, the highest level since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking seasonally adjusted unemployment rates at the state level in 1976.

Michael Goodman, executive director of the UMass Dartmouth Public Policy Center and a co-editor of MassBenchmarks, said joblessness in Massachusetts might not have reached such elevated levels since the recession immediately after World War II.

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