Feb 5 | Jan Jobs Report

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the January jobs report on Friday.

It’s a bleak view of the economy, but provides important data to support our advocacy for relief. Knowledge is power. This report proves not only is more relief needed, but it must be robust and comprehensive.


As usual, we break it down with help from some of our favorite economists.

Job recovery is abysmally slow.

We lost 22 million jobs when COVID hit in February and March.

The economy has so far recovered:

+4.8 million jobs in June

+1.8 million in July

+1.5 million in August

+661,000 in September

+638,000 in October

+245,000 in November

-227,000 in December (you saw that right, we LOST jobs in December instead of recovering them)

+49,000 in January

While we did return to recovering jobs rather than losing more of them OVERALL, we didn't even recover half of what we lost in December.


There are still 9.9 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic and jobs recovery has slowed remarkably. As Aaron Sojourner, former White House senior economist, notes, "the last steps back are much harder than the first."


We are actually in a jobs deficit of 12 million jobs when you take into account the jobs that should have been added in 2020 were we not in a major recession. (Elise Gould, EPI)


"At this pace it would take 29 years to get back to pre-recession jobs levels."

(Heidi Shierholz, EPI)


The Unemployment Rate

The official unemployment rate lowered from 6.7% to 6.3% which is still higher than the unemployment rate ever was in the early 2000s recession.


Jason Furman, at Peterson Institute, notes that "the unemployment rate fell by 0.4% but 400K left the labor force so the employment rate only rose 0.1%."


Heidi Shierholz at EPI notes, though, that "a quick decomposition finds that 56.8% of that drop was for “good reasons” (employment going up) & 43.4% was for “bad reasons” (people dropping out of the labor force)"


The unemployment rate fell by 0.4pp but 400K left the labor force so the employment rate only rose 0.1pp.

We also know the unemployment rate is inaccurate and leaves our millions of workers.

The BLS reports that in January, there were 10.1 million workers who were officially unemployed. But there were also an additional:

  • 800,000 workers who were temporarily unemployed but misclassified as “employed, not at work" instead of unemployed.

  • 5.1 million workers who were out of work as a result of the virus but were counted as having dropped out of the labor force.

  • At least another 2.7 million are unemployed but are not being counted because of a technicality in the CPS survey nonresponse.

Together, that equals 18.7 million workers who were out of work as a result of the virus in January. That unemployment rate is 11%

(Heidi Shierholz, EPI)




None of this includes underemployment

BLS reports that 6.8 million people who were working in January had been unable to work at some point in the last four weeks because their employer closed or lost business due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they did not receive pay for the hours they didn’t work.

If we add these 6.8M people to the calculations, 25.5 million workers—15% of the workforce—were still being directly hurt by the coronavirus crisis in January 2021. (Heidi Shierholz, EPI)

AND IT'S STILL PROBABLY A LOW ESTIMATE because it doesn’t count all of the people who have cut hours and pay that aren’t reported to BLS and it doesn't count all of the people who lost a job or hours earlier in that pandemic, but are not back to work.

Long Term Unemployment is at an all-time high


4 million people are now considered long-term unemployed (unemployed for 27 weeks or more). That is 4 times the number it was pre-pandemic. The share of the unemployed who have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks is now at 40%. (NYTimes)



These people have been without an unemployment boost for 5 of those months. We need retroactive and continued assistance beyond March.

Permanent layoffs rose slightly to 3.5 million. (Daniel Zhao, Glassdoor)

Recovery continues to be unequal...

By gender:


All of December's jobs lost belonged to women. (CNN)

Now in January, men gained 200K and women lost 21K jobs. (Michael Madowitz,AmProg)

Overall, women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs during the recession—nearly 1 million more job losses than men.

Among women, Hispanic women currently have the highest unemployment rate at 8.8%, followed by Black women at 8.5% and Asian women at 7.9%. White women have the lowest unemployment rate at 5.1%. (Center for American Progress)


By race:

Due to the impact of historic and current systemic racism, Black and Latinx workers have seen more job loss in this pandemic and have less wealth to fall back on. Unemployment rates by race:

White: 5.7%

Black: 9.2%

Asian: 6.6%

Latino: 8.6%





By income:


This is an economic crisis that is disproportionately hurting the poor.

Average wages are rising, but that's because low-wage workers are losing their jobs, leaving only high-wage workers in the average. (Justin Wolfers)




By education level:

Only 23.2% of employed people report having teleworked or worked at home in the last four weeks because of the pandemic—less than one in four workers. (Elise Gould, EPI)

There’s also a huge inequity of who can work from home based on education level. 52% of people with a graduate degree have jobs that can be done from home, while only 3% of those without a high school degree have work-from-home jobs. (December chart here)


By Industry:


“Since February, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 3.9 million, or 22.9 percent,” the government report (BLS) said. (CNBC)

Child care has lost 1 in 6 workers since the start of the pandemic. (Dr. Kate Robbins)

The January Jobs Report just further proves the need for relief

Our workforce is crumbling and recovery has slowed to the point of crawling. It will not recover for years at this rate. Unemployment rate "improvements" largely come from people dropping out of the workforce, not from employment gains.

Economic Policy Institute estimates about an additional $2 Trillion is needed to rebuild the workforce.

Groundwork Collaborative estimated that number closer to $3-4 Trillion


How should we be using that money?


-Retroactive payments are key. People cannot recover without back paying accrued debt.

-Continued support through a robust UI boost and direct aid.

-Healthcare and rent relief.

-Relief for all people.

-Local and state government funding.

Tell your Legislators. Check out our newest talking points and call scripts at ExtendPUA.org/strategy, target legislators on key committees listed here, and start making calls.

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