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:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
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
Heard on:
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

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Read More

Collapse

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.