Unemployment 2020

Nearly a third of Americans worry about having their work hours cut or losing their jobs

Kimberly Adams Sep 1, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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An employee at the newly reopened Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. With unemployment widespread, many people who have kept their jobs are worried about losing them. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images
Unemployment 2020

Nearly a third of Americans worry about having their work hours cut or losing their jobs

Kimberly Adams Sep 1, 2020
An employee at the newly reopened Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. With unemployment widespread, many people who have kept their jobs are worried about losing them. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images
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We talk a lot about what the pandemic is doing to the economy — how it’s showing up in the jobs numbers, in retail sales, bankruptcies, you name it. But there’s another part of it which is how the economy feels — how it makes us feel.

That brings us to some polling out from Gallup on Tuesday, showing 27% of people who still have jobs are worried about losing those jobs or having their hours cut back. Others are worried about pay or benefits being cut.

But are those worries justified?

If almost a third of people are worried about losing their job or having their hours cut, you have to figure the other two-thirds aren’t.

They’re like Josh Stamps, an aerospace engineer in Lakewood, Colorado.

“Even though my household is in a really good position, I’m concerned about just about everybody I know outside of my house,” he said.

Then there’s the 27% who are worried. They’re worried about what happened to Brett Hulverson in Davenport, Florida.

“To this day, I’m still looking for a job,” he said, and that’s not a situation he thought he’d ever be in.

Hulverson had steady work in the entertainment industry. Then he was furloughed, then laid off. He had plenty of time to chat about his worries as he and his wife waited in the car line at a food bank.

“This has been kind of our Tuesday ritual, if you will, for the past couple months now,” he said.

“I’ve definitely had some of these same worries and uncertainties myself, and then thinking through what, what happens if I do lose my job? Where, where do we go from there?” said Jenn Trivedi, who teaches anthropology and studies disasters at the University of Delaware.

She said her job is probably safe for now, but her worry reveals something about the way we process information.

“We think about things like risk and uncertainty,” Trivedi said. “Not only through what we experienced directly ourselves, but what we see other people, especially other people who are like us, experiencing and going through.”

And more people like us — all of us — are suffering in the pandemic.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?

Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.

Are we going to see another wave of grocery store shortages?

Well, public health officials are warning that we could see a second wave of the virus before the end of the year. And this time retailers want to be prepared if there’s high demand for certain products. But they can’t rely totally on predictive modeling. People’s shopping habits have ebbed and flowed depending on the state of COVID-19 cases or lockdowns. So, grocers are going to have to trust their guts.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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