COVID-19

How many furloughed workers will return to their jobs? Many are optimistic

Kristin Schwab May 11, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A temporarily closed restaurant in Chicago. Eateries and tourism may lag some other industries in reopening. Scott Olson/Getty Images
COVID-19

How many furloughed workers will return to their jobs? Many are optimistic

Kristin Schwab May 11, 2020
A temporarily closed restaurant in Chicago. Eateries and tourism may lag some other industries in reopening. Scott Olson/Getty Images
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COPY

Not long before stay-at-home orders were put in place, Savannah Jordan started a dream job as a guest relations manager at a new upscale restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. Then, three days before the restaurant’s grand opening, she was furloughed. “I was upset only because I was so excited to open up the restaurant and get started,” she said.

She’s collecting unemployment, but she loves her job and isn’t looking for a new one. Also, she’s seeing states start to open up. “I’m in full confidence that we’ll open up soon, and once we do we’ll be extremely busy,” she said.

The most recent jobs report was grim: more than 20 million people lost their jobs in April. But one piece of light in the dark is that 78% of people who lost their jobs last month say they were temporarily laid off.

And it seems like many of them are feeling positive. A recent poll by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago says 78% of people in households where someone has been laid off think there is a chance they’ll go back to work

Matt Notowidigdo at Northwestern University feels that’s a little optimistic, but not far from the reality — at least for now. “Every month that you say you’re on layoff temporarily, there’s a chance that becomes permanent,” he said.

Some industries will have an easier time rehiring, like health care and construction — jobs that are public necessities or where it’s easier to follow social-distancing rules. 

Restaurants and tourism will be shakier, but they might need to bring people back to take on slightly different jobs. “Part of the story is that they’re going to need people to pursue the social distancing,” said Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

In the meantime, the confidence most furloughed workers are showing is good. It’s what could actually save us from a longer downturn. When people believe they still have jobs waiting for them, they continue to spend money. And that keeps the economy going.

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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