COVID & Unemployment

Despite June’s bullish employment numbers, the job market is reeling — and will be for a while

Mitchell Hartman Jul 2, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A grocery store employee cleans carts for customers in New York. Low-wage workers are disproportionately affected by the suffering job market. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Despite June’s bullish employment numbers, the job market is reeling — and will be for a while

Mitchell Hartman Jul 2, 2020
A grocery store employee cleans carts for customers in New York. Low-wage workers are disproportionately affected by the suffering job market. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The jobs report released Thursday was really good. U.S. employers added 4.8 million jobs in June. The unemployment rate fell 2.2% to 11.1%.

But all of that progress came when businesses were reopening. Right now, COVID-19 cases are surging in Florida, Texas, California and elsewhere. And some businesses that just re-opened are having to re-close. Some of them, maybe, for good.

It could take a long time to claw back the damage the pandemic is causing to Americans’ employment. The state of the economy is a mixed bag right now, said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.

“We’re making great strides hiring back in certain industries that were the hardest hit,” Frick said, like leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, retail. “But at the same time, we’re adding to the ranks of the permanently unemployed, kind of the hard-core unemployed.”

So, a glass half-empty? More like three quarters.

Sure, we’ve added about 7.5 million jobs. But we lost 22 million to the pandemic before that, said Nick Bunker, Economic Research Director for North America at the Indeed Hiring Lab.

“Employment is still 10% below what we were seeing in February,” Bunker said. “And we’re still seeing really elevated levels of job separations several months into this crisis.”

That’s what Steven Heald is facing. He worked as an assistant manager at a high-end restaurant in Washington, D.C. until business dried up in mid-March.

“Got it all ready for an extended closure, and then we were furloughed that week,” Heald said.

He got on unemployment. Then the restaurant reopened in May. 

“Worked for five weeks, just doing takeout, and then the decision was made to close the restaurant for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The pain is especially severe, and may be longer lasting, for women and minorities, said Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy and economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. 

“Low-wage workers — who are disproportionately going to be Black workers, Hispanic workers, women workers — are less likely to have the assets and savings needed to be able to weather a downturn,” Bahn said.

Experts agree that jobs and incomes aren’t likely to fully recover until there’s a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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