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December 4, 2020

How coronavirus created US unemployment crisis

By Paul Dennis

4 December

Greg Ip, chief economics commentator for The Wall Street Journal, shared an article on how the coronavirus pandemic has pushed nearly 4 million Americans out of the labour market, a 2.2% contraction in the US workforce, with economists fearing that many wouldn’t return at all. The article further notes that women, low-wage workers, and baby boomers have been the worst affected, with many not only having lost their jobs but also not looking for jobs.

When lockdowns were lifted after March, the demand for workers witnessed a sudden rise, a phenomenon economists did not expect. Consequently, unemployment rates fell by more than half to 6.9% between April to October, correcting more than two-thirds of the initial rise.

However, economists believe that the health of the US workforce is overstated, as the supply of people either working or looking for jobs has declined.

For instance, just one-third of the workers, mainly those working in low-wage sectors such as retail, hospitality, and others, who have lost their jobs since February 2020 state that they want a job but aren’t looking for one.

Economists believe that the effects of the pandemic will continue to depress the labour force, marked by  a major retreat of baby boomers who constitute the productive workforce, women being forced to reduce their working hours or stop working altogether, thereby making a return much harder, and unskilled workers less likely to find well-paid jobs.

Meanwhile, president elect Joe Biden’s team is looking to address the coming crisis of nearly 12 million Americans being stripped off their unemployment benefits on December 26, along with programmes supporting student loan forbearance and protection from evictions also to end.

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