Jobs have bounced back in some parts of the economy. Others face a long slog.
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The jobs report for the month of October was pretty good.
The economy added 638,000 jobs. That’s fewer than in September, but welcome as the job market continues to recover from the cliff it fell off when the pandemic shut the economy down. The unemployment rate came down another point, to just under 7%.
But job gains have been slowing down since the economy first started bouncing back from the massive job losses of early spring. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are surging, and there’s no stimulus in sight from Washington.
In some sectors of the economy, most jobs have come back: manufacturing, construction, financial services, warehousing and transportation.
But jobs in some face-to-face services — bars and restaurants, arts and entertainment, child care — are still down 15% to 30%.
“The easiest part of the economic recovery is behind us,” said Jason Furman, nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He points out 17 million people went on temporary layoff when the pandemic hit. Many have now been called back.
“Most of that has happened already. Now there’s another 8 million people who don’t have an old job to return to,” Furman said. “That’s going to be harder.”
About a third of jobless Americans are now long-term unemployed, without a job and actively looking for six months or longer, said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
“That is a devastating number,” she said. “As this drags on, I expect those numbers to reach the levels we saw in the Great Recession.”
Back then, nearly half of the jobless were long-term unemployed.
Restoring full employment will be hard, in part, because we’re losing employers at a dizzying pace. Dave Gilbertson tracks this at workforce-management firm Ultimate Kronos Group, which is a Marketplace underwriter.
“Right now, about 10% of companies with fewer than 100 employees that were operating in March are not operating anymore,” he said. “That’s the job recovery that I think is going to take a long time, because you’ve got to get to a place where people are confident enough to reopen businesses.”
Analysts say it may take years before the U.S. economy looks something like pre-pandemic “normal” again.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?
Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.
How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?
Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.
How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?
As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.
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