Unemployment 2020

How will employers perceive long-term unemployment in this moment?

Erika Beras Aug 7, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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A "now hiring" sign at a store in Arlington, Virginia. Employers may take the pandemic lockdown into consideration when seeing gaps in applicants' resumes. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
Unemployment 2020

How will employers perceive long-term unemployment in this moment?

Erika Beras Aug 7, 2020
A "now hiring" sign at a store in Arlington, Virginia. Employers may take the pandemic lockdown into consideration when seeing gaps in applicants' resumes. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
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The United States added 1.8 million jobs in July, a pullback from the gains of May and June and evidence that the resurgent coronavirus is stalling hiring and slowing an economic rebound. With confirmed viral cases still elevated in much of the nation and businesses under continued pressure, many employers appear reluctant or unable to hire.

Even counting the hiring of the past three months, the economy has now recovered only about 42% of the 22 million jobs it lost to the pandemic-induced recession, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report released Friday.

For some people, unemployment is starting to stretch out over many months because of the pandemic. So how does long-term unemployment affect people’s ability to eventually return to the workplace?

People who are out of work for two, three, maybe even four months — employers get that. But longer than that, said economist and dean of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business Matthew Slaughter, “your skills depreciate a bit, the longer that you’re not in a job.”

And traditionally, employers have a lot of questions for prospective employees if there’s a big gap in their work history. But Slaughter said workers can build new skills to boost their earning potential.

“What becomes more important is, what’s the story that you can tell when — fingers crossed — you do have those interviews?” he said.

Of course that story, right now, involves the pandemic, said San Francisco Bay Area career coach Dorianne St. Fleur.

“It won’t be looked at as negatively now as potentially it has been in the past,” she said.

But in this moment, many of her clients are concerned about having to take a pay cut if they do get work because the job market is so competitive.

With reporting from The Associated Press

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What does the unemployment picture look like?

It depends on where you live. The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month. That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%. Unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

Will it work to fine people who refuse to wear a mask?

Travelers in the New York City transit system are subject to $50 fines for not wearing masks. It’s one of many jurisdictions imposing financial penalties: It’s $220 in Singapore, $130 in the United Kingdom and a whopping $400 in Glendale, California. And losses loom larger than gains, behavioral scientists say. So that principle suggests that for policymakers trying to nudge people’s public behavior, it may be better to take away than to give.

How are restaurants recovering?

Nearly 100,000 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term — nearly 1 in 6, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association. Almost 4.5 million jobs still haven’t come back. Some restaurants have been able to get by on innovation, focusing on delivery, selling meal or cocktail kits, dining outside — though that option that will disappear in northern states as temperatures fall. But however you slice it, one analyst said, the United States will end the year with fewer restaurants than it began with. And it’s the larger chains that are more likely to survive.

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