Buffett also allowed Berkshire's cash stake to rise to a record $137.3 billion from $128 billion at the end of 2019.
He also said he decided that he "made a mistake" investing in US airlines, and that this accounted for some of the net $6.1 billion of stocks that Berkshire sold in April.
But he maintained his usual optimism that the United States would weather it successfully, citing its emergence from crises such as World War Two and the influenza pandemic a century ago. Meanwhile, Buffett's 96-year-old right-hand man Charlie Munger was absent from this year's meeting.
While quarterly operating profit rose 6 per cent, several larger businesses including the BNSF railroad posted declines, hurt by the negative impact of Covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Buffett told the meeting, which was held virtually: "We made that decision in terms of the airline business".
Abel nonetheless said that in five years, "we see our employment numbers being far greater than they are today".
By that measure, Berkshire Hathaway saw growth to US$5.9 billion from US$5.55 billion a year earlier. The year before, Berkshire's investments added $15.5 billion to the company's profits. The investment firm repurchased $1.7 billion of its own stock in the first quarter, but that was less than the prior quarter.
Buffett's Berkshire posts almost $50b loss
Berkshire's first-quarter figures missed Wall Street forecasts due to about $55 billion in investment losses last quarter. Berkshire reported buying a net $1.8 billion of stocks in the first quarter but selling a net $6.1 billion in April.
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Berkshire Hathaway had paid $7 billion to $8 billion, and "we did not take out anything like that", he said. Its stock price has fallen 19% in 2020, compared with a 12% drop in the Standard & Poor's 500, despite Buffett's prediction that Berkshire would outperform in down markets.
Buffett said he previously considered investing in additional airlines.
In the first quarter, many Berkshire stock investments fared worse than the S&P, including American Express, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and the four airlines.
But it won't be in USA airlines, after Buffett confirmed that Berkshire in April sold its "entire positions" in the four largest: American Airlines Group Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc, Southwest Airlines Co and United Airlines Holdings Inc.
The company was one of the largest individual holders with investment around seven or eight billion USA dollars in the four airlines, stocks of which have been hard hit by the near collapse U.S.travel demand that has fallen by about 95 percent amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting will be livestreamed and will include an abbreviated version of the question-and-answer session Buffett normally leads.
Vice Chairman Ajit Jain, 68, who oversees Berkshire's insurance businesses and is also a possible CEO candidate, did not attend either.