© Reuters. People walk past a bankrupt store along 125th Street in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Applications to start new businesses in the U.S. plummeted in the fourth quarter as COVID-19 continued to devastate the economy, supporting the view that it could take years to recover the millions of jobs lost during the pandemic. The Commerce Department said Thursday that commercial applications fell 28.5% to 1.115 million seasonally adjusted last quarter. All four regions posted a decline, with sharp declines in the Midwest, South and West. The coronavirus crisis has worsened, with restaurants and other consumer-oriented businesses suffering the most. The economy has recovered 12.4 million of the 22.2 million jobs lost in March and April, when the crisis began in the United States. At least 18.4 million Americans receive unemployment benefits. Economists expect employment to return to its pre-pandemic level in 2023. The Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau, which compiles business formation data, said the report will no longer be released on a quarterly basis. Instead, the reports will be released monthly based on the January data, which will be released on February 10.