Updated: Jan 12, 2021
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the December jobs report on Friday. With only about half of the pandemic job losses recovered, job recovery has halted.
It’s a bleak view of the economy but provides important data to support our advocacy for relief. This report proves not only is more relief needed, but it must be robust and comprehensive.
We break it down here with help from some of our favorite economists.
Job Recovery Started to Slide Backwards For the First Month.
We recovered 0 jobs in December.
We’ve been tracking the slowed progression of job recovery for months and now, in December, we actually started to go backward.
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
We LOST (-) 140,000 jobs in December.
There are still 9.8 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic and job recovery is sliding backward.
We are actually in a jobs deficit of 11.8 million jobs when you take into account the jobs that should have been added in 2020 were we not in a major recession, which before the recession averaged 194,000 per month. (Heidi Shierholz, EPI)
The Unemployment Rate
A 6.7% unemployment rate is no improvement from last month and it is still higher than the unemployment rate ever was in the early 2000s recession.
We have a greater jobs deficit today than we did at the very worst point of any previous post-war recession, including the Great Recession.
Even temporary holiday hiring didn’t pick up enough to make up for other factors dragging down job growth.
These numbers are skewed and don't include everyone
The BLS reports that in October, there were 10.7 million workers who were officially unemployed. But there were also an additional:
1.0 million workers who were temporarily unemployed but misclassified as “employed, not at work" instead of unemployed.
4.9 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 19.3 million workers who were out of work as a result of the virus in October. That unemployment rate is 11.3%. (This is higher than November.)
(Heidi Shierholz, EPI)
None of this includes underemployment
BLS reports that 7.5 million people who were working in December 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 7.5M people to the calculations, 26.8 million workers—15.8% of the workforce—are being directly hurt by the coronavirus crisis (Heidi Shierholz, EPI)
AND IT'S STILL PROBABLY A LOW ESTIMATE because it doesn’t account for all of the people who have cut hours and pay that aren’t reported to BLS.
Long Term Unemployment is at an all-time high
Long-term unemployment (27 weeks and over) continues to rise, increasing by 27,000 in December. The share of the unemployed who have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks is now at 37.1%. (Elise Gould, EPI)
These people have been without an unemployment boost for 5 of those months. We need retroactive and continued assistance beyond March.
Recovery continues to be unequal...
Women lost 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000. (BLS)
Among women, Latinas currently have the highest unemployment rate at 9.1%, followed by Black women at 8.4%. White women have the lowest unemployment rate at 5.7%. Chart on women’s unemployment by race here.
White: + 38K
Black: - 26K
Asian: - 40K
Latino: -252K (Michael Madowitz)
Black unemployment improved but remains elevated at 9.9%. (Gbenga Ajilore) Hispanic unemployment experienced a significant increase from 8.4% to 9.3%.
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:
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. (Chart here) Another chart, showing the disparity of work from home by race, is here.
And across industries:
Employment declined in leisure and hospitality, a fall of 498,000 jobs. That sector remains 3.9 million jobs below where it was before the pandemic recession hit. (Daniel Zhao, Glassdoor)
State and local government employment continued to decline for the fourth month in a row totaling a loss of 1.4 million from pre-pandemic. 1 million of those job losses are in education. (Chad Stone, Center on Budget)
On top of all of that:
COVID is CONTINUING to get WORSE in this country. We just hit the all-time high for most cases in one day ever internationally. Hospitals in many places are overrun again.
We should not be pushing reopenings. It is failing. People are dying.
And due to the newest surges, we are seeing yet another wave of job losses and hour and pay cuts for many who keep their jobs.
The lack of relief continues to force people back into unsafe jobs, many of which aren't sustainable.
The December Jobs Report just further proves the need for relief
Our workforce is crumbling and recovery has halted.
EPI estimates an additional $2.1 Trillion is needed to rebuild the workforce.
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.
Sign the Petition ExtendPUA.org/petition
A graphic version of this breakdown is available on our Instagram @ExtendPUA