According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in April alone, 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs, making this the most sudden and largest decline in employment since the government began tracking the data in 1939. Those losses also account for the 870,000 Americans who lost their jobs in March as well. For comparison, during the financial crisis in 2008 around 8.7 million Americans lost their jobs, total.
The loss in employment is an obvious result of the coronavirus pandemic and multiple quarantine policies that have been enforced because of it. The unemployment rate went up by 14.7% in April, again, breaking the record for the highest level of unemployment the Bureau’s seen since it began recording monthly employment rates in 1948.
Once businesses began closing and stay-at-home orders were being enforced in late March millions of Americans began losing their jobs. According to reports the leisure and hospitality industry has been hit the hardest so far with a loss of over 7.5 million jobs, and retail follows it with a loss of over 2 million jobs.
Historically speaking, the hardest part of a recession is rebuilding what gets lost. It took the United States the past ten years to create over 20 million new jobs for the American people after the 2008 recession, and now, all of that hard work was diminished in a matter of weeks. However, some big business owners are confident that this situation will be different, since the economic/job losses have been a result of a worldwide health pandemic.
The larger issue is for industries that involve a more face-to-face consumer experience, such as restaurant workers, hotel employees, and local businesses. There’s going to be less of a demand for businesses like that because it’s going to be more difficult to convince customers to actually leave their homes when it’s not fully necessary.
So what’s the government currently doing to help ensure our economy can recover from this pandemic and it’s huge economic impact? While it’s easy to make comparisons to our countries current situation and the Great Depression, we also have to understand the US lacked any sort of safety net in the 1930’s.
Once this pandemic began, local, state, and federal governments began acting to expand unemployment benefits and extend funding to small businesses. Stimulus checks have been dealt out to every American adult earning less than $99,000 a year, and while these programs have received quite a bit of backlash and have been viewed as not nearly enough action from the government, they have provided some relief to workers and employers across the country.
Congress has expanded unemployment benefits to include an additional $600 a week for the next four months and they also expanded who is eligible to file for unemployment benefits; contractors, self-employed individuals, and workers in the gig economy can now apply.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo claims that the state was able to hire 1,000 new employees specifically for sorting through unemployment claims. Government workers in New Jersey are also looking for experienced workers to help them work with decade-old computer programming for this process. So in a sort of sad ironic twist, the decline in the economy is simultaneously helping it rebuild itself, slowly.
Overall, however, many Americans are disappointed in how long it’s taking all levels of government to respond to the many needs of the people right now. More than half of all Americans still haven’t received their stimulus checks, and even when they do they know it won’t be able to help much. Obviously, it’s going to take time for the US labor market to recover, but for now, the least we all can do is support one another, and continue to demand that the government does it’s job to protect its citizens.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.