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COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused more public school job losses than the entire Great Recession

Meghan McCarty Carino Jun 4, 2020
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Some jobs involve school building maintenance with facilities closed, but about half were positions that deal directly with students. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused more public school job losses than the entire Great Recession

Meghan McCarty Carino Jun 4, 2020
Heard on:
Some jobs involve school building maintenance with facilities closed, but about half were positions that deal directly with students. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Another 1.877 million people filed jobless claims last week, signaling that the worst may be over for COVID-19 job losses, although unemployment is still inordinately high. More than 42 million recently laid-off people have put in their applications for unemployment since the pandemic shelter-in-place orders began. A new report shows that many people working for public schools are losing their jobs.

Almost 469,000 workers in K-12 public education lost a job in just the month of April, according to the Economic Policy Institute. It’s no surprise that some jobs involve school building maintenance. But about half were positions that deal directly with students: special education teachers, tutors and teachers assistants.

“And I think it’s devastating for student learning,” report author Elise Gould said.

She says the job losses in April were more than the sector saw in the entire Great Recession. They could be long-lasting as states grapple with reduced budgets.

Bruce Fuller, a professor of education policy at the University of California, Berkeley, says further cuts to education — as we saw in the Great Recession — would probably mean larger class sizes and lower teacher salaries.

“These things add up to a decline in overall educational quality, and that sort of affects our whole society’s ability to generate more potent forms of human capital for the private sector,” Fuller said.

That, he says, could make it even harder for the economy to recover in the long run.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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