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COVID & Unemployment

For state workers, revenue decreases mean job cuts

Andy Uhler Sep 4, 2020
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A Kentucky elementary school teacher leading an online class. Among the most vulnerable government workers are those in education and health care. Andy Lyons/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

For state workers, revenue decreases mean job cuts

Andy Uhler Sep 4, 2020
Heard on:
A Kentucky elementary school teacher leading an online class. Among the most vulnerable government workers are those in education and health care. Andy Lyons/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The economy added 1.4 million jobs in August according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate also fell below 10% for the first time since the pandemic took hold, but job growth has slowed since June, and the job gains are partly due to the temporary hiring of 238,000 people working on the 2020 census.

State and local government workers across the country are losing their jobs as states struggle to bring in revenue during the pandemic. In Texas, overall revenue collections are down more than 3%. And for many Texans, that could mean more job cuts.

Texas leaders have already asked some departments to trim their budgets.

“And that is generally public education, higher education,” said Cal Jillson, professor of political science at SMU in Dallas. He said unlike the federal government, which can run extensive deficits, states are required to balance their budgets.

“So what that means is when your revenues go down, you have to cut almost immediately, and the result of that is a loss of jobs,” Jillson said.

Nationwide, more than a million state and local workers have been furloughed or laid off, according to Michael Leachman at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“And there are going to be more if the federal government doesn’t step up to the plate and provide substantial fiscal aid,” he said.

And as in Texas, he said those most vulnerable to job cuts nationwide include teachers and health care workers.

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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