COVID-19

Crisis cuts many workers’ hours, extends workday for some

Meghan McCarty Carino May 6, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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An employee restocks milk at a grocery store. Some businesses are seeing strong demand during the pandemic and increasing staff hours. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
COVID-19

Crisis cuts many workers’ hours, extends workday for some

Meghan McCarty Carino May 6, 2020
An employee restocks milk at a grocery store. Some businesses are seeing strong demand during the pandemic and increasing staff hours. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The pandemic is hitting American workers hard — every day there’s more bad news about layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts. A new Marketplace Edison Research Poll showed that among those who are still employed, more than a third have had their hours cut. But 16% are actually working more hours than before.

Houston electrician Mike Cargill is one of them. Home electricity usage has surged during the lockdown, and so has his pay.

“Because people are at home watching TV or plugging their laptop in different areas to work from home and realizing, ‘Oh my goodness, this outlet doesn’t work,’ ” he said.

Meanwhile, his fiancee, who works in marketing, and his dad, who consults in the oil fields, are out of work. “It is definitely strange,” Cargill said.

Every recession has winners and losers, said Julia Pollak, labor economist with job site ZipRecruiter, but the juxtapositions caused by this economic shock have been extreme.

“This is like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” she said. “Job postings have fallen 47%. At the same time, it has caused sales and user growth to soar in some other businesses,” like grocery stores, e-commerce and pharmaceuticals.

Though big companies like Amazon and Walmart are hiring to meet increased demand, she said more businesses are simply increasing hours for existing staff.

But not all of those workers are getting paid more, said Jed Kolko, chief economist with job site Indeed.

“It’s one thing to want more hours, get more hours and get paid for it,” he said. “It’s something else entirely to have to work more hours just to get your same job done for the same pay.”

That’s the case for Carolyn Behrens, a middle-school English teacher in Richmond, Virginia, who has revamped her curriculum for remote classes and switched to more one-on-one sessions for students with learning disabilities.

“Because you’re doing things more individually, it just takes longer,” she said.

She estimates she’s working about two extra hours a day. But as an already overworked teacher, she stopped keeping track.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

New COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. How are Americans reacting?

Johns Hopkins University reports the seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday  — a record — eclipsing the previous record hit in late July during the second, summer wave of infection. A funny thing is happening with consumers though: Even as COVID-19 cases rise, Americans don’t appear to be shying away from stepping indoors to shop or eat or exercise. Morning Consult asked consumers how comfortable they feel going out to eat, to the shopping mall or on a vacation. And their willingness has been rising. Surveys find consumers’ attitudes vary by age and income, and by political affiliation, said Chris Jackson, who heads up polling at Ipsos.

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

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