The last jobs report for 2020 is out Friday morning, and the results are not good. The U.S. economy actually lost 140,000 jobs in December instead of making modest gains as forecasted. It’s the first month of job losses since April 2020, interrupting a recovery.
But, with vaccines slowly starting to roll out, and the money from the recent $900 billion COVID relief package starting to make its way into the economy, could we start seeing some better jobs news in January?
The short answer is not yet. The biggest reason is that the U.S. is still setting records for new COVID infections and deaths.
“I think that that’s the biggest determinant, frankly. What’s the virus doing?” said Erica Groshen, an economist at Cornell University.
Groshen said that as long as so many people are staying home, we just aren’t going to see a lot more rehiring or new jobs.
“We’ve sort of reached a plateau, I would say, that is not going to look a lot better until the vaccine reaches a whole lot more people,” she said.
In the meantime, the latest COVID relief package will have a positive effect on the economy as soon as this month, said Heidi Shierholz, at the Economic Policy Institute.
“Without that stimulus package, over 10 million people would have lost unemployment insurance benefits at the end of December,” Shierholz said. “That would have been a huge drag on the economy that we will not see.”
And, with the Democrats soon to be in charge, Shierholz said there is likely more relief on the way.
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 begins 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.
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