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How Cuts to Unemployment Benefits Will Hurt Rural People

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Aallyah Wright, Author at Mississippi Today

Republican governors in at least 22 states are ending federal unemployment assistance. The cuts will hit hard in rural areas and communities of color.

After Lisa Wilkinson, 54, got laid off from her factory job in December 2019, she knew it would be difficult to replace it. She’s older and lives in rural Tennessee, where work is scarce.

She immediately began her search, but in March 2020, Covid-19 forced employers to shut their doors.

She applied for state and federal pandemic unemployment and received $300 a week plus back pay in June 2020?—?a lifeline, she said in an interview. Several weeks later, the benefits ran out, and she still couldn’t land a job. Then, in the midst of that, Wilkinson, her 79-year-old husband and her 82-year-old mother contracted Covid-19.

Wilkinson recovered, but her husband and mother did not.

“If you’re not a saver, you lose everything you got. And if you lost a spouse or member in your family?—?last year, this year?—?it makes it worse,” Wilkinson said. ?“You have anxiety, depression … and thoughts of where your next meal is coming from.”

Wilkinson feared for her health and that of others if she entered the workforce, but she kept applying anyway, she said. To date, she has sought more than 300 jobs. Since January, she has recertified and reapplied for extended benefits at least three times. Her claim is still processing, she said.

Now, she’s waiting?—?on unemployment benefits or a job, whichever comes first.

“People are like, ?‘Jobs [are] out there, if you need ?‘em,’” she said. ?“But they’re not the ones trying to apply for ?‘em.”

In at least 22 states, the federal unemployment assistance Wilkinson is fighting to get is being retracted by Republican governors, who plan to end the pandemic-related aid as early as June.

The governors argue that the benefits discourage people from taking jobs. But economists say cutting off federal aid affects people’s livelihoods?—?especially for people of color and residents of rural areas saddled with slow job growth, lackluster transportation options and limited opportunities.

“We know [communities of color in rural areas] suffer from chronic high unemployment and have been really hurt by the pandemic, so I do think that this is an issue that’s gonna be hitting different communities harder,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a left-leaning independent think tank.

“We saw in the data that African Americans are really taking advantage of these programs,” he said, ?“and they’re going to be hurt by the revocation of some of these programs. I would say economic distressed communities, writ large, are going to be losing out on a lot of these benefits.”

About 16 million people nationwide would receive a total of $100 billion in benefits if all states continued federal unemployment funds through their set expiration date of Labor Day, Sept. 6, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data by The Century Foundation. Of the states that planned to pull benefits, almost $11 billion in unemployment benefits could be lost, affecting nearly 2 million workers, the analysis found.

States have never before made this reversal?—?accepting the federal funds, then turning them down?—?Stettner said.

Montana was the first state to announce it would end the program, on May 4, cutting off the benefits June 27. Other states followed suit, including Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. All are led by Republican governors. 

Focused on Vacancies

Economists told Stateline that the decision to opt out of pandemic unemployment affects the recipients who receive the funds, which in turn reduces the flow of money into local economies. 

Some Republican governors are focusing on filling job vacancies.

“Eliminating these pandemic programs will not be a silver bullet for employers to find employees, but we currently have about 116,000 available jobs in the state,” said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in a statement.

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and President Joe Biden’s administration will ?“take concrete action to prevent anyone from falling through the cracks,” a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Labor said in a statement. The statement doesn’t specify whether states are required to continue providing payments, as some advocacy groups have argued the department could force them to do.

Some governors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?—?which also called for an end to the $300 weekly extended benefits?—?opposed the extra support because, they said, benefits would disincentivize people to go back to work in industries such as food service and hospitality.

However, there is no evidence that federal pandemic unemployment benefits had a substantial effect on employment after the $600 benefits expired in July 2020, according to a February 2021 study by a researcher with the National Bureau of Economic Research.

More than half of people who received a $600 federal unemployment check returned to work before the supplement expired, found a separate February paper from the University of Chicago Becker Friedman Institute for Economics.

Many lawmakers’ views on the extended benefits fall along partisan lines.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said it’s time for employees to work to bring the economy up to speed.

“The $300 federal supplement helped thousands of Arkansans make it through this time, so it served its purpose. Now we need Arkansans back on the job,” Hutchinson said in a May 11 statement.

Arkansas state Sen. Ron Caldwell, a Republican, told Stateline he agreed with the governor’s decisions to end the assistance early. Caldwell pointed to available jobs in the agriculture field in his state. People who are unemployed, but afraid of getting Covid-19, he said, have to ?“balance their fear of going to work.

“It’s not very fair for working class people to get up every day and people stay at home because they afraid to get sick,” Caldwell said in a phone call. ?“Teachers, first responders are going into the field. I know [Covid-19] is very real, but we can’t stick our head in the sand and continue on with people having grocery shelves stocked and other things that have to be done.” 

Across the aisle, Arkansas state Rep. Fredrick J. Love, a Democrat, said painting the community with a broad brush hurts households.

“In rural Arkansas, some [businesses] aren’t coming back. Some are permanently closed,” Love said. ?“If people qualify for pandemic unemployment, it’s apparent they were working before. I think they’re looking for work and can’t find it or it was less [money] than they were looking for.”

In Georgia, state Rep. Kim Schofield, a Democrat, said the responsibility rests in part on some employers who don’t pay livable wages.

“We need workplace salaries to match the 21st century workplace,” Schofield said. ?“There are larger companies who have made billions on the backs of workers. They can now give incentives back to workers, on-site child care, or raise some of the wages up to $15 and start there.” 

Although it’s challenging for smaller businesses to find employees, there isn’t a broad labor shortage, and people would go to work if jobs were available, said Wayne Vroman, an economist with The Urban Institute, an economic and social policy D.C.-based think tank.

Vroman added that the unemployment cutoffs put rural people of color at a larger disadvantage because they face higher unemployment rates. Although rural people don’t participate in unemployment programs as much, there are many who do, and if cut off from the benefits, would suffer, Vroman said.

David Cooper, a senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., said the true indicator of a labor shortage is rising wages, but there’s not accelerating wage growth across the board.

There is evidence, however, of a shortage in leisure and hospitality fields, he added.

“Wages in leisure and hospitality employment make up just 4% of all wages in the U.S. economy, so this is a very small portion of the economy where employers may be struggling to find folks,” Cooper said. ?“There’s no reason why difficulty for those employers should mean that we should turn off unemployment benefits for everyone.”

The industries experiencing shortages, such as leisure and trucking, don’t provide job security for workers, Stettner argued. Taking a ?“sledgehammer to the problem” by ending benefits won’t address deeper issues, he added.

Domino Effect

About 9.8 million working-age people don’t have jobs, even as the national unemployment rate is lower than last year. The rate stands at 6.1%, the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data show, and only 19 states and the District of Columbia exceeded the national rate. This is more magnified for Black and Latino people, who face higher unemployment rates than white people, at about 10% and 8%, respectively.

Meanwhile, states’ troubled unemployment systems have been making headlines for months. Long wait times, website crashes and high traffic at call centers all contributed to barriers for people trying to navigate the unemployment system, according to New America, a public policy think tank.

And widespread unemployment fraud hurt all jobless residents in state after state: Maryland officials have frozen claimants’ accounts because of potential unemployment fraud. Residents in Colorado are struggling to verify documents through a new technology system designed to halt potential fraud.

Communities of color also may have a harder time getting approved for unemployment assistance. A July 2020 survey by the Bipartisan Policy Center and Morning Consult found that Black and Latino workers were underrepresented in unemployment benefits. Black and Latino workers made up about 40% of the unemployed nationally, but were fewer than 20% of the recipients, the poll found.

The racial disparities in unemployment programs have always existed, said Michelle Holder, an economist and assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Since 1972, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics first began collecting data on unemployment among Black Americans, the rate has been more often than not twice the amount as white unemployment, according to the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Holder added that Black people tend to live in states where unemployment payments are lower.

“There’s already an imbalance,” Holder said.

And rural areas benefit the most from government programs because job growth is slower. Rural residents tend to be poorer, older, and lack transportation, access to the internet and health care.

Between 2010 and 2017, the yearly job growth for rural America was 0.5% compared with 1.8% in urban areas, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows.

The families hardest hit in rural areas face other hurdles, from food and housing insecurity to difficulties paying for utilities, health and child care, said Neil Sealy, executive director the Arkansas Community Organizations, a grassroots group that focuses on social and economic justice.

“This is a domino effect that affects people,” Sealy said. ?“Not having the money to survive will kick off a whole bunch of other things.”

This is why some grassroots organizers, economists and lawmakers insist that governors continue the assistance as well as administer unemployment programs more equitably.

“If we’re counting on the system to help the economy and help to reduce poverty,” said Stettner of The Century Foundation, ?“we cannot leave it to the states.”

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on June 8, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Aallyah Wright reports on rural affairs and leads race and equity coverage for Stateline. Previously, Aallyah worked for Mississippi Today, a digital nonprofit newsroom covering K?12 education and government in the Mississippi Delta?—?her home region. As a member of the Delta Bureau, she investigated Mississippi’s teacher shortage, finding it was six times worse than in 1998 when the Mississippi legislature passed a bill to alleviate the crisis. She is a 2020 Mississippi Humanities Council Preserver of Mississippi Culture Award Recipient, 2019 StoryWorks Theater Fellow, and 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report. Wright graduated from Delta State University with a bachelor’s in journalism and minors in communication and theater. 


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Economy Gains 379,000 Jobs in February; Unemployment Down to 6.2%

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The U.S. economy gained 379,000 jobs in February, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.2%, according to figures released Friday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In response to the February job numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Last month’s biggest job gains were in leisure and hospitality (+355,000), health care and social assistance (+46,000), retail trade (+41,000) and manufacturing (+21,000). The biggest losses were in construction (-61,000), local government education (-37,000), state government education (-32,000) and mining (-8,000). Employment changed little in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities and other services.

In February, the unemployment rate increased for Black Americans (9.9%). The unemployment rates for teenagers (13.9%) and Asians (5.1%) declined. The rates for Hispanics (8.5%), adult men (6.0%), adult women (5.9%) and White Americans (5.6%) showed little or no change.

The number of long-term unemployed workers (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) barely changed in February and accounted for 41.5% of the total unemployed.

This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on March 5, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell  is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.


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The Impact of Job Loss in Immigrant Communities During COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark demonstration of the racist and xenophobic attitudes maintained at an institutional level. Job loss and rates of infection have disproportionately affected immigrant groups in the U.S. and other nations around the world. 

With these marginalized groups often being locked out of the aid resources meant to mitigate the damage of COVID-19, job loss has a powerful impact on immigrant communities. But the damage doesn’t stop there. With approximately 48% of agricultural workers in the U.S. lacking citizenship, trouble for immigrant communities means trouble for everyone.

Understanding the totality of this impact requires a look into the data and an analysis of available resources.

Impact of COVID-19 on Immigrant Communities

According to several studies, the effects of COVID-19 seem to be disproportionately impacting communities of ethnic minorities and immigrants. In many cases, these effects ripple through the population and are felt in everything from disruption in supply chains to agricultural slowdowns.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ran a study on the full impacts of the COVID pandemic on migrant families. These are some of the key findings:

  • COVID infection rates are twice as high in migrant communities versus native-born populations.
  • Discrimination has been found to increase during slack labor markets.
  • Immigrants are more highly represented in the sectors of the economy hit hardest by the pandemic.
  • Immigrant children are less likely to have a computer and internet access at home, meaning school closures can disproportionately set these children back in comparison to their peers.

These findings demonstrate the spiral of negative effects of a pandemic on immigrant populations, who are bearing the brunt of the crisis in unemployment numbers as well. Despite having lower unemployment rates than native-born workers before the pandemic, immigrants lost jobs in larger numbers.

Immigrant unemployment reached 16.5% versus the 14% for natives when the shutdowns began.

With more jobs lost in the sectors in which immigrants make up a larger percentage of the workforce, the scale was tipped against these workers. Tipped minimum wage workers, when they weren’t laid off, had tip decreases that were sharper among minority servers. This further increased the equity gap that has long plagued nations across the world and left some of the most vulnerable financial sectors of the population in the most precarious positions.

Since many immigrants often have no earned credit score—coming from nations or backgrounds where one wasn’t needed—even using an emergency credit card became difficult. In turn, computers could not be purchased for out-of-school children. These are disadvantages that can have severe impacts on populations for generations to come, worsening inequality rates that already fall too often under racial lines.

With the risks of COVID-19 more real for immigrant communities in almost every sense, it is important to establish the full extent of the problem. At the same time, underserved immigrant communities should have the resources and help they need to better survive these systemic problems. 

Finding Help and Relief

Whether you’re an immigrant yourself or simply someone empathetic to the problems faced by these communities, whole databases of resources are out there to assist and support the cause. From education to safety, support resources for immigrants and refugees can at the very least connect people to knowledgeable individuals.

Here are some more places you can look for all kinds of help in the COVID era:

  • iAmerica: Information for immigrants on everything from stimulus payments to healthcare tips.
  • ILCTR: Resources for immigrants, parents, and educators during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • United We DreamMental health resources, ways to take action, and more for the immigrant community. 

The impact of job loss in immigrant communities could have far-reaching, long-lasting effects experienced for generations. Recognizing this problem and utilizing helpful resources are the first steps towards better solutions and a more equitable future.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business and technology topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.


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Democrats call for UI system fix as millions face another lapse in benefits

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Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Senate Democrat overseeing unemployment issues, is calling on Congress to give the Labor Department $500 million to shore up the bewildered state unemployment system.

Hobbled by antiquated computer systems, state agencies responsible for paying out unemployment benefits have struggled to administer new emergency aid programs created for the millions of people pushed out of work during the pandemic, leaving many jobless people without much-needed aid for weeks.

And if lawmakers are unable to move quickly on their latest pandemic rescue package, the issue could mean that as many as 11.4 million workers could face yet another lapse in benefits when expanded unemployment programs expire again next month.

A bill released Wednesday by Wyden and Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Mark Warner (Va.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.) is aimed at fixing those systemic issues, calling on the DOL to develop a uniform system for jobless benefits that states can use to remedy their systems.

“While enhanced jobless benefits have enabled millions and millions of families to pay the rent and buy groceries, state after state has been unable to get benefits out the door in a timely manner,” Wyden said in a statement. “My bill requires a complete overhaul of unemployment insurance technology, and paves the way for one website to apply for jobless benefits, not 53.”

But some state officials point the finger at Washington for not giving them adequate time to prevent a lapse in benefits, arguing that lawmakers have taken too long to approve extensions in the programs, resulting in delayed guidance on how to administer the changes.

As part of his $1.9 trillion economic rescue package, President Joe Biden has called on Congress to extend several federally funded CARES Act jobless benefit programs through September 2021. But, the legislation Democrats have proposed would only extend them through Aug. 29, 2021.

A Senate Finance committee staffer told POLITICO that Wyden is “certainly looking” at whether the proposals could fit into the relief package. But the measure would have to comply with the strict budget rules that accompany the fast-track process known as reconciliation that Democrats are using to pass the next Covid-19 aid package with a simple majority in the Senate.

Even if it is passed quickly under budget reconciliation, the bill won’t have an immediate effect, as it lays out a two-year timeline for implementation.

Currently, while DOL oversees the unemployment system rules and funds the administrative costs, it’s up to 53 individual state and territorial unemployment agencies to actually process unemployment claims and get the benefits into the pockets of those who qualify.

But their archaic systems have struggled under the fast pace of job losses caused by pandemic-related shutdowns throughout the past year and a wave of fraud targeting the beefed up unemployment benefits Congress provided under one of the pandemic aid packages.

As a result, any changes to jobless benefit programs have taken weeks for states to implement.

Some workers who used up all 39 weeks of their unemployment benefits offered under federal programs last year still haven’t been able to tap into the extra 11 weeks of benefit provided under the extension of unemployment aid enacted by Congress in December.

In California, six percent of unemployment claimants — 185,000 people — won’t have access to those benefits until March 7, according to California’s Employment Development Department.

“What’s the roadblock here?” California Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) said in reaction to news of the delay last week. “The roadblock to getting money to massive amounts of people who need it and need it desperately is the same old problem. Dinosaur technology.”

But in New Jersey, state officials blamed Congress for not giving states enough time to stand up the latest round of benefits. New Jersey prioritized getting the $300 benefit out the door first, as it would help all people who were receiving unemployment. But about 75,000 workers whose unemployment benefits had expired were left in limbo as programmers worked to feverishly update the 11-week benefits extension into their system.

The issue was ultimately resolved on Saturday, but New Jersey’s labor commissioner said in a press conference last week that Congress waiting caused “significant pain” for these 75,000 workers, who represented about 5 percent of the state’s claimants.

“The frustrations our workers are feeling are taking place all over the nation right now, as a result of last minute federal action,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said, before the programming problem was resolved. “If [Congress] had acted just weeks before the expiration date they knew was looming for months, states would have had the time needed to keep benefits for some from lapsing at all.”

New Jersey’s technology system is in desperate need of upgrades. But other states that have spent large sums of money modernizing their systems are having the “exact same challenges with this subset of claimants,” Asaro-Angelo said.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on February 10, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.


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The pandemic is replacing people with tech — threatening the jobs rebound

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The mass disruption of the workplace because of the pandemic is accelerating employers’ move toward job-displacing automation, and neither the government nor the American labor force is prepared for the sweeping fallout.

The hemorrhaging of jobs is refueling a national debate over how to give workers the skills to survive the brutal market and fill the millions of positions that automation will inevitably also create — albeit at a far slower pace than positions are being shed. Lawmakers, labor unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are all calling for more spending on workforce training. The employment and training programs now available — there are no fewer than 43 spread across the government — are inadequate, uncoordinated and underfunded, they say.

“We’ve fast-forwarded 10 years of change in the space of less than 10 months,” said Andy Van Kleunen, CEO of the National Skills Coalition, a policy research group that promotes workforce training. “We don’t really do a good job making it easy for someone who has lost their job due to no fault of their own, particularly in an industry that’s downsizing, to get into a new occupation in a new industry,” he said. “We just need a whole reboot of that.”

For President Joe Biden, this could be one of the most far-reaching economic issues that he will face, and failing to resolve it would undercut his vow to restore the U.S. labor market. Biden, who has strong support from organized labor, is pledging to expand partnerships between unions, businesses and community colleges, scale up work-based learning programs and build out individual career services.

Yet despite the bipartisan calls for action, it may be a struggle for Biden to convince Republicans to agree to fund a large-scale and expensive overhaul of how the government tackles reskilling workers. Even the $1.9 trillion economic relief package he has proposed contains no new funds specifically for job training. Congress has invested only $345 million in workforce development to address Covid-19, according to the House Education and Labor Committee, compared to the nearly $6 billion it appropriated to respond to the Great Recession.

This “is not just an opportunity lost if we don’t help people get the skills for the jobs that are being created, it’s going to be a real drag on the economy,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the Chamber of Commerce. “It’s going to mean a lot of suffering for a lot of individuals.”

Forty-three percent of businesses anticipate reducing their workforce because of new technology, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs survey. In December, searches for automation engineering equipment on Thomas, a product-sourcing platform, were up more than 300 percent from the previous year. And research firm Gartner found in February that Covid-19 had caused seven out of 10 boards of directors to accelerate their digital business.

The lightning-fast shift has created a more urgent demand for worker training than ever. With an estimated 97 million new job categories that could arise from automation, companies estimate that 40 percent of workers will require reskilling.

Though automation typically affects blue-collar workers most in manufacturing and food service, the rise of other technologies like artificial intelligence is poised to imperil white-collar employees, too.

Still, Black and brown workers are bearing the brunt of the impact: Lower levels of education and other barriers to opportunity mean that minority workers are more likely than whites to be employed as cashiers, cooks, and in other occupations susceptible to automation. Even pre-pandemic, 23 percent of Black workers were in danger of losing their jobs by 2030 due to automation, by one estimate.

The dozens of employment and training programs spread across agencies as of 2019 were funded by the Labor Department via the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Education Department’s Pell and Perkins grant programs, as well as Health and Human Services’ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and USDA’s SNAP Employment and Training program, to name a few.

But the pandemic has underscored that “there’s no alignment of those plans in a way that gives us the opportunity to do the type of worker retraining that is necessary,” said Nicol Turner Lee, director of Brookings’ Center for Technology Innovation. “When we come out of this, we’re going to have to figure out how we get people placed into jobs that no longer look like their normal.”

On top of that, many of the highest-performing programs — like the Labor Department’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program — are narrowly restricted, accessible to only a handful of workers who meet a strict set of criteria. such as having been adversely affected by foreign trade.

If Congress is to help workers affected by automation maintain — or regain — employment, lawmakers, workers’ advocates and unions say a revamp of these programs will be necessary.

Van Kleunen says he and his team support the idea of a federal effort to bring all stakeholders — businesses, community colleges, unions — to the table for a conversation around what kind of training is needed and how it can best be provided. People close to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Biden’s nominee for Labor secretary, say he would be on board with such a move.

“We’re going to be creating new jobs, but other jobs may be diminished or eliminated completely because of the changing economy. And we’ve got to provide the tools necessary, especially with minority workers,” said Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Businesses including PwC, L’Oreal and KeyBank have already launched in-house efforts to reskill workers. But the bulk of employers lack the resources to do so and will require coordination with educational institutions and the public sector to help employees make the jump. Just 21 percent of businesses report being able to access public funds to support reskilling.


Momentum is building to streamline existing efforts to get workers retrained and back to work — including not only the 43 federal programs but safety-net measures like the unemployment insurance systems spread across all 50 states.

With many Americans out of work or employed at a company unable to do its own retraining, a key part of the conversation involves making sure workers are able to pay their rent while obtaining the skills they need to stay afloat long-term. While Biden has not specifically endorsed such an overhaul, he has said he wants to extend unemployment benefits for as long as it takes to train and reskill workers. 

Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), vice chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, called for reauthorizing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which authorized funds for the Labor Department’s programs only through fiscal 2020.

“With [the legislation] up for reauthorization, we will have an opportunity to enhance our nation’s workforce system so workers have the additional opportunities to successfully compete in the 21st century workforce,” House Education and Labor Committee ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said.

Many other developed nations like Sweden and Germany already have such large-scale systems in place. The U.S., in comparison, spends less of its GDP on worker training than most other OECD countries. The OECD’s 2020 economic survey of the U.S. found that building out “retraining or reskilling opportunities — would help workers displaced by the coronavirus shock.”

“This isn’t pie in the sky,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union. “There’s lots of global lessons we can draw on.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on February 5, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Eleanor Mueller is a legislative reporter for POLITICO Pro, covering policy passing through Congress. She also authors Day Ahead, POLITICO Pro’s daily newsletter rounding up Capitol Hill goings-on.


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The U.S. Economy Excels at One Thing: Producing Massive Inequality

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To grasp the sheer magnitude of U.S. economic inequality in recent years, consider its two major stock market indices: the Standard and Poor (S&P) 500 and Nasdaq. Over the last 10 years, the values of shares listed on them grew spectacularly. The S&P 500 went from roughly 1,300 points to over 3,800 points, almost tripling. The Nasdaq index over the same period went from 2,800 points to 13,000 points, more than quadrupling. Times were good for the 10 percent of Americans who own 80 percent of stocks and bonds. In contrast, the real median weekly wage rose barely over 10 percent across the same 10-year period. The real federal minimum wage fell as inflation diminished its nominal $7.25 per hour, officially fixed and kept at that rate since 2009.

All the other relevant metrics likewise show that economic inequality in the United States kept worsening across the last half-century. This happened despite “concerns” about inequality expressed publicly across the years by many establishment politicians (including some in the new Biden administration), journalists, and academics. Inequality worsened through the capitalist downturns after 1970 and likewise through the three capitalist crashes of this century (2000, 2008, and 2020). Nor did the deadly pandemic provoke soul-searching or policies adequate to stop, let alone reverse, the ongoing redistribution of income and wealth upward.

No advanced economics is required to grasp that divisions, bitterness, resentment, and anger flow from such a persistently widening gap between haves and have-nots. Among millions who search for explanations, many become prey for those mobilizing against scapegoats. White supremacists blame Black and Brown people. Nativists (calling themselves “patriots” or “nationalists”) point to immigrants and foreign trade partners. Fundamentalists blame those less zealous and especially the non-religious. Fascists try to combine those movements with economically threatened small-business owners, jobless workers, and alienated social outcasts to form a powerful political coalition. The fascists made good use of Trump to assist their efforts.

U.S. history adds a special sharpness to the search for explanations. The dominant argument for capitalism in the 20th century after the 1930s Great Depression was that it “produced a great middle class.” Real U.S. wages had risen even during the Depression. They were generally higher than elsewhere across the globe, and especially in comparison with those in the USSR. High wages showed the superiority of U.S. capitalism according to the system’s apologists in politics, journalism, and academia. Demolition of that middle class at the end of the 20th and into the new century pained especially those who had bought the apologies.

And indeed, the Great Depression and its aftermath had lessened inequality significantly, enabling such a defense of capitalism to have some semblance of validity. However, for that defense to be persuasive required two key facts to be forgotten or hidden. The first is that the U.S. working class fought harder for major economic gains in the 1930s than at any other time in U.S. history. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) then organized millions into labor unions utilizing militants from two socialist parties and a communist party. Those parties were then achieving their largest-ever numerical strengths and social influences. That is how and why together the unions and the parties won the establishment of Social Security, federal unemployment compensation, a minimum wage, and a huge federal jobs program: all firsts in U.S. history. The second fact is that capitalists in the 1930s and afterward fought harder than ever against each and every working-class advance. The “middle-class” status achieved by a large portion of the working class (by no means all and especially not minorities) happened despite not because of capitalism and capitalists. But it was certainly clever propaganda for capitalism to claim credit for working-class gains that capitalists tried but failed to block.

The reduction of U.S. economic inequality accomplished then proved temporary. It was undone after 1945. Particularly after 1970, capitalism’s normal trajectory of deepening economic inequality resumed through to the present moment. Simply put, capitalism’s basic structure of production—how it organizes its enterprises—positioned capitalists to reverse the New Deal’s reduction of economic inequality. Much of the temporary U.S. middle class is now gone; the rest is fading fast. Over the last half-century, U.S. capitalism brought inequality to the extremes surrounding us now. No wonder a population once persuaded to support capitalism because it fostered a middle class now finds reasons to question it.

In capitalist enterprises, tiny minorities of the persons involved occupy positions of leadership, command, and control. The owner, the owner’s family, the board of directors, or the major shareholders comprise such minorities: the class of employers. Opposite them are the vast majorities: the class of employees. The employer class determines, exclusively, what the enterprise produces, what technology it uses, where production occurs, and what is done with its net revenue. The employee class must live with the consequences of employers’ decisions from which it is excluded. The employer class uses its position atop the enterprise to distribute its profits partly to enrich itself (via dividends and top executive pay packages). It uses some of its profits to buy and control politics. The goal there is to prevent universal suffrage from moving the economic system beyond capitalism and the economic inequality it reproduces.

Deepening U.S. inequality flows directly from this capitalist organization of production—its class system. Occasionally, under exceptional circumstances, rebellious social movements win reversals of that inequality. However, if such movements do not change the capitalist organization of production, capitalists will render such reversals temporary. To solve the extreme inequality of U.S. capitalism requires systemic change, an end to capitalism’s specific class structure pitting employers against employees. If production were organized instead in enterprises (factories, offices, stores) that were democratized—one worker, one vote—as worker cooperatives, economic inequality could and would be drastically reduced. Democratic decisions over the distribution of individual incomes across all the participants in an enterprise would far less likely give a small minority vast wealth at the expense of the vast majority. The same logic that dispensed with kings in politics applies to employers in capitalism’s enterprises.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

About the Author: Richard D. Wolff is professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, in New York. Wolff’s weekly show, “Economic Update,” is syndicated by more than 100 radio stations and goes to 55 million TV receivers via Free Speech TV. His three recent books with Democracy at Work are The Sickness Is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us From Pandemics or ItselfUnderstanding Marxism, and Understanding Socialism.


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Pandemic reveals tale of 2 Californias like never before

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As Bay Area tech workers set up home offices to avoid coronavirus exposure, grocers, farm workers and warehouse employees in the Central Valley never stopped reporting to job sites. Renters pleaded for eviction relief while urban professionals fled for suburbs and resort towns, taking advantage of record-low interest rates to buy bigger, better homes. Most of the state’s 6 million public school children are learning remotely, while affluent families opted for private classrooms that are up and running.

California has long been a picture of inequality, but the pandemic has widened the gap in ways few could have imagined. While other states face large budget deficits, California has a $15 billion surplus, thanks to record 2020 gains from Silicon Valley and white-collar workers who pay the bulk of California’s taxes.


Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled the state’s record-high $227 billion budget last week despite a year in which unemployment soared beyond 10 percent and the homelessness crisis reached devastating levels in Los Angeles and beyond.

He has proposed directing much of California’s bounty toward struggling residents and low-income families, and it remains to be seen whether the state will continue to reap similar tax rewards in future years. If this is a onetime windfall, Newsom and lawmakers will have to find other resources to sustain additional aid — and face pressure to raise tax rates even more on the wealthy.

“There’s a way in which the pandemic has amplified all of these systemic and societal issues we were always aware of,” said Brandon Greene, director of the racial and economic justice program at the ACLU of Northern California. “These gaps persist and are widening. And if it can happen here, in a blue state where you have the political capital, it can happen anywhere.”

California’s low-income workers and people of color have borne the brunt of both the economic fallout of the recession and the physical toll of the virus itself. The Latino Covid-19 death rate is 22 percent higher than the statewide average, and the Black death rate is 16 percent higher, according to California’s health equity tracker.

Even before the pandemic, ZIP codes home to just 2 percent of California’s population held 20 percent of the state’s net worth, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. In 2020, more than 40 percent of households making less than $40,000 annually saw reduced work hours or pay, and an equal share had to cut back on food, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

“Decades-long inequalities, those preexisting conditions around race, around ethnicity, the preexisting conditions around wealth disparities and income disparities, obviously have come to the fore and must be addressed,” Newsom said while outlining his budget proposal last week.

Moments later, he made a stark proclamation about how the other side is doing: “The folks at the top are doing pretty damn well.”

Newsom, 53, is a multimillionaire businessman in addition to being governor, and his own personal life has punctuated the extreme differences in California. His dinner at the French Laundry in November not only enraged the public for his flouting of his own advice against gathering; it served as an optics problem with menu prices that many Californians cannot afford even in normal times. Newsom sent his own children back to private classrooms in late October while most families were stuck in remote learning. When he had to quarantine in November, he said he was “blessed because we have many rooms” in his Sacramento County home.

However, the Democratic governor has prided himself on bridging the equity gap and has branded his efforts as “California for All” since taking office two years ago. He appointed the state’s first surgeon general, Nadine Burke Harris, who has focused her career on addressing childhood trauma in disadvantaged communities and led vaccine discussions mindful of equal distribution. Newsom has pushed hard to reopen public schools this spring because he says students in low-income neighborhoods are struggling the most with distance learning.

Newsom has proposed $600 state stimulus checks to nearly 4 million low-income workers as part of his budget plan. He launched an effort to shelter tens of thousands of homeless Californians in hotel rooms when the outbreak began and then transitioned toward a program that would convert that into permanent housing. He helped enact renter protections from eviction and wants to extend those protections.

Californians saw an array of relief in 2020, as all levels of government tried to lessen the burden. Children who live in communities that have long gone without broadband and quality internet access received hotspots and other Wi-Fi access. Cities stopped using parking tickets and towing as a way to bring in revenue. More lower-level offenders were freed from prisons and jails after virus outbreaks.

Advocates say the jarring juxtaposition in the pandemic, as the state’s richest got richer and its poor got poorer, prove it’s not enough. They are lobbying Newsom and the Legislature to use California’s unexpected windfall to help the state’s neediest by expanding the social safety net and to turn temporary relief granted during the pandemic into permanent solutions. They worry that momentum is already losing steam, and that things will revert to normal when the vaccine reaches the masses and Covid-19 is in the past.

“These things that were implemented as a kind of lifeline are now expiring and folks still need it,” said Jhumpa Bhattacharya, a vice president at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development based in Oakland. “We live in a society where we don’t believe in government intervention, and there’s this narrative that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps. When the pandemic hit, we saw that’s not true, and my hope is that we will be able to develop a new understanding of how our society works.”

California Democrats have proposed bigger taxes on the ultra-rich as a solution, with groups like the California Teachers Association pushing last year for legislation to hike taxes for residents with more than $30 million in assets. That bill failed, but Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) just proposed raising taxes on corporations by $2 billion to fund housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Newsom made clear last week that he will not entertain major tax proposals, declaring “they’re not part of the conversation.” The pandemic’s remote work culture has shown information-based companies that office location may not matter as much as once thought, while California’s high housing costs, regulations and taxes are a deterrent.

Further taxing the rich is proving to be a political risk and a threat to the very system that makes it possible for California to thrive even in dark times. Just last month, Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced they were moving their headquarters to rival state Texas. Elon Musk, now the richest person on the planet, also said he was moving to the Lone Star State, though his company Tesla will remain in California.

“There’s about 1 percent of taxpayers that pay half the income tax in the state, and the reason why state revenues have been so strong is that those taxpayers had a very good year. As long as those people are willing to stay in California and be taxed, the money will come in,” said David Shulman, senior economist emeritus for the UCLA Anderson Forecast. “But there is a point where they will say it doesn’t work anymore. The question is, are we at a tipping point? There’s certainly more evidence that we are getting close to it.”


The last major tax hike in California was a 2012 voter-approved tax on residents making more than $250,000 championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, which voters later extended through 2030. Voters in November, however, rejected a ballot initiative to tax commercial properties at their current value, which would have generated up to $12 billion more annually.

Advocates say another tax hike is overdue, but even without one, the state could change its priorities to make better use of its billions.

“It’s all very frustrating, since with the fifth largest economy in the world, these things are fixable. The money is there,” said Courtney McKinney, spokesperson for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “It is a question of priorities — whether or not millions of people being plunged into poverty is seen as enough of a destabilizer to encourage the wealthy, business and political class in California to put money into addressing poverty and the trappings of poor environment in smart, sensible ways. Easier said than done.”

Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose), a coauthor of legislation to extend the eviction moratorium for another year, said resistance to more permanent solutions to help low-income residents is a reminder that California is not as progressive as it claims to be.

In the November election, California proved it’s not the liberal bastion people think it is. Besides rejecting the business property tax increase, they opposed affirmative action and rent control while they sided with gig employers and dialysis companies instead of labor unions.

“Whether or not people should be evicted during a pandemic in a recession … even just having to fight about that says we aren’t where we should be yet,” Lee said. “I think a lot of people are realizing this stuff, and that even though we have Democratic super, ultra majorities, we aren’t living up to the progressive potential we have. I would never characterize us as progressive state.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on January 17, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mackenzie Mays covers education in California. Prior to joining POLITICO in 2019, she was the investigative reporter at the Fresno Bee, where her political watchdog reporting received a National Press Club press freedom award.


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Economy Loses 140,000 Jobs in December; Unemployment Remains at 6.7%

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The U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate remained at 6.7%, according to figures released Friday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The losses reflect an increase in cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to respond to the pandemic.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (IBEW) pointed out the important takeaway from the new numbers:

In response to the December job numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Last month’s biggest job losses were in leisure and hospitality (-498,000), private education (-63,000), government (-45,000) and other services (-22,000). Gains were seen in professional and business services (161,000), retail trade (121,000), construction (51,000), transportation and warehousing (47,000), health care (39,000), manufacturing (38,000) and wholesale trade (25,000). Employment in other major industries, including mining, information and financial activities, showed little change in December.

In December, the unemployment rates increased for teenagers (16%) and Hispanics (9.3%). The jobless rates for Black Americans (9.9%), adult men (6.4%), adult women (6.3%), White Americans (6%) and Asian Americans (5.9%) showed little change.

The number of long-term unemployed workers (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose slightly in December and accounted for 37.1% of the total unemployed.

This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on January 11, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell  is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.


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As job losses mount, states struggle to pay extended benefits

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About two dozen states have yet to start paying out the billions of dollars in federal jobless benefits extended by Congress last month, depriving struggling Americans of income even as many have been out of work for months.

In most of the states working to reset their unemployment insurance systems, people relying on federal aid — especially a new program set up for Uber drivers and others in the gig economy — will be waiting as long as several weeks to get their hands on the money. Among states experiencing delays are California, Michigan, Florida and Washington.

Americans are less likely to have cash saved to help bridge the gap because it took months of negotiations in Congress before the additional federal aid was renewed after lapsing at the end of July, said Ernie Tedeschi, a former U.S. Treasury economist, who is now the head of fiscal analysis at financial firm Evercore ISI.

“I worry that unemployed workers may have burned through a lot of those savings and have a lot less to sustain them,” Tedeschi said. “Workers need the relief that they’re eligible for, that they’re entitled to, as quickly as possible.”

The delay comes as job losses are growing, with the economic recovery losing momentum amid a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Labor reported Friday that U.S. employers cut 140,000 jobs in December, the first decline in employment since April.

President-elect Joe Biden has backed Democratic leaders’ calls for more federal aid to boost benefits — a prospect that is more achievable with Democrats winning the two Georgia runoff elections on Tuesday, which gives them control over the Senate.

Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, said during an event held by Business Forward on Wednesday that the presidential transition team is “thinking about how to extend unemployment insurance for the duration of the crisis.” She didn’t elaborate on how they would do that.

But Congress has already begun to leave town until Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, meaning that jobless Americans will likely be waiting a while before they see more financial help from Washington.

While some states like New York, Maryland and Maine were able to issue the federal jobless payments without delay, others including Nebraska, North Dakota and Kansas say they are reviewing guidance from the Labor Department and will need time to start cutting the benefit checks again.


Even in states that are paying out the aid or expect to shortly, such as New Jersey, Texas and Georgia, workers who used up all 39 weeks of their unemployment benefits offered under federal programs last year will have to wait for additional reprogramming and processing of the computer systems.

Lawmakers extended several CARES Act emergency unemployment insurance programs under the massive economic relief bill signed into law on Dec. 27. These include the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides jobless benefits to gig workers and others not traditionally eligible for help; and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which extends state unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks.

But because Congress waited until just days before the programs’ Dec. 31 expiration date to pass a bill to extend the programs into 2021, many states didn’t have the time to set up their systems to continue paying out the benefits in the new year.

The relief bill also restored the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program — which expired at the end of July — to provide all workers receiving jobless aid with an extra $300 a week through March 14.

But it was the extension of that program that created a programming headache for some state systems that hadn’t paid the benefit since late summer.

Washington state was able to reprogram its system to prevent a lapse in benefits for its residents using the federal PUA and PEUC programs, but it won’t be able to start issuing the extra $300 payments until Jan. 15.

Massachusetts’ and Nebraska’s unemployment agencies say they will be able to issue the $300 payment this week, but are still working to set up the other aid programs.

So far, at least 18 states have started to issue benefit payments this week or plan to early next week. They include Arizona, Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Idaho and New York, among others.

Some 32 states are currently not paying out all the benefit programs or have not provided an update on their website or responded to requests for comment. They include Michigan, Montana, Florida, Alaska, Washington and Wyoming.

For its part, the U.S. Labor Department has issued dozens of pages of guidance since President Donald Trump signed the bill into law last month. The agency also says it has held three calls and sent mass email messages to states to explain the new unemployment provisions in the stimulus package and will be holding technical assistance webinars this week and next.

“Some states can’t even really give a timeline at this point,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment insurance expert at the left-leaning National Employment Law Project.

“Some states are waiting for all five pieces of guidance before they say anything or roll anything out,” she said, noting that the DOL issued several instructional documents during the holidays.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on January 8, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.


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Reversing job market opens door to larger Biden stimulus

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The latest coronavirus wave slammed the U.S. economy in December, wiping out 140,000 jobs, raising pressure to accelerate vaccinations and blowing the door open for President-elect Joe Biden and a narrowly Democratic Congress to push for even more stimulus spending within weeks.

The December employment report, the last to be released during President Donald Trump’s administration, leaves the nation around 11 million short of the level of jobs from before Covid-19 crushed the economy and wiped out around 23 million jobs. Trump’s record will now include a recovered stock market but an enormous net loss of jobs.

Most of the losses in December, nearly 500,000, came in the leisure and hospitality industries as fresh lockdowns and lower travel led to widespread layoffs. The expiration of some of the first big stimulus package, passed back in March, also left consumers with less money to spend, hitting demand in the economy.

The December tumble, which left the jobless rate at 6.7 percent, suggests the distribution and adoption of coronavirus vaccines must increase rapidly in order to avoid much worse damage and allow for potential recovery in the spring and summer. 

And it will give Biden and the Democrats wider leeway to force through trillions of dollars more in stimulus spending — by whatever legislative means available — including significant help for state and local governments. It also means the Democrats will likely be able to approve enough direct cash to reach the “$2,000 check” level they’ve long supported, when including the $600 checks approved by Congress and signed by Trump last month. 

“The economy went into reverse in December and we are still 11.5 million jobs short of where we were and the biggest problem was the virus and the expiration of stimulus,” said Harvard professor Jason Furman, who served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama. “Much more action is needed to control the virus and support the economy. And I think that will be enough to generate large improvements over the course of 2021.”

The December jobs report cements a strange legacy for Trump. The nation will have millions of jobs fewer than when he took office, partly due to a slow and halting federal response to the coronavirus. But the stock market has regained all its losses from the spring and now is hitting records once again as many companies that thrived during lockdowns soar and investors bet on a stronger 2021.

The bifurcation has led to a stark “K-shaped” recovery in which the top level of workers have largely if not completely recovered while tens of millions of Americans in lower-paying service industry jobs suffer. Economic inequality, already bad before the virus hit, is now at levels not seen since the 1920s before the Great Depression. Reversing that trend is among Biden’s top priorities. And he now has more weapons at his disposal with the narrowest of Senate majorities following Democrats‘ two special election wins in Georgia. 

Biden will have full control of Washington — though not a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate — during the first two years of his term. And his economic advisers plan a heavy focus on spending to boost vaccination distribution, support strapped state and local governments, improve American infrastructure, further expand jobless benefits and pump more direct cash into individual households. 

Economists and Wall Street analysts say some of the recent market ebullience is based on the assumption that Biden will be able to deliver on much of this even if Democrats decide against blowing up the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes in the Senate to overcome. 

But they will have multiple opportunities to use the “budget reconciliation”vehicle to pass significant spending increases with a one-vote margin in the Senate. There is also the chance that more Republicans in the Senate will come around to the need for bigger stimulus spending given the wave of new coronavirus cases and the slow nature of the vaccine rollout.

“With the elections in Georgia giving control to the Democrats, we should expect to get a fairly large and targeted fiscal aid package in the first quarter of the year which investors clearly have seized on,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at consulting firm RLM. “We are going to get a targeted fiscal aid package quickly then another stimulus package and then infrastructure. And these are all huge things.” 

The state and local aid will be especially important as states are already struggling to pay billions in extended benefits approved by Congress last month, leading to several weeks of delays in payments in places like California, Michigan, Florida and Washington. Losses in state and local government jobs forced by lower Covid-era tax receipts and the need to balance budgets is also driving down the national jobs numbers. 

Failing to approve larger stimulus spending could push the economy into either a double-dip recession or a repeat of the slow, halting and unequal recovery that followed the financial crisis of 2008. The Biden team, many of whom worked in government during the Obama years, is determined to learn the lessons of the last major slowdown.

Still, even with major stimulus spending, the recovery will depend in large part on effective and widespread adoption of vaccines. And even then, it may take years to return to economic conditions before the virus hit. “I’m worried some of the scarring is extensive enough that we will be far from fully recovered at the end of 2021,” said Furman. “Today’s number expands what was already an open window for more support for the economy, but we will not be back in perfect condition until 2022 or 2023. It’s going to take a while in some places.”

Job losses in December, which ended seven months of gains following the enormous virus-induced declines, largely came in the service industry where restaurants and bars slashed 372,000 positions as cold weather and new lockdowns limited demand. Overall, employment in leisure and hospitality — which includes hotels, tourist sites and other categories, declined by 498,000. Gains in professional and business services, retail and other areas were not enough to offset the giant losses elsewhere. Government jobs declined by 45,000 amid growing budget crunches around the nation. 

There are now around 11 million unemployed and the jobless rate remained at 6.7 percent, well below its Covid-ear peak of over 14 percent but still double what it was before Covid hit. And there are still nearly 20 million Americans on some form of jobless assistance.

But Wall Street traders and many economists remain hopeful that the slide in jobs will reverse fairly early next year given prospects for vaccines and more fiscal aid. Should either of those things fail, however, the numbers could get significantly worse. 

“While we remain very upbeat on the US’ medium- to long-term prospects, we have to be braced for more bad economic data that could last well into the second half of 2021,” James Knightley, chief international economist at financial firm ING, wrote in a note to clients on Friday.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on January 8, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Ben White is POLITICO Pro’s chief economic correspondent and author of the “Morning Money” column covering the nexus of finance and public policy.


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