Uneven Recovery: 2021 Begins With Around 20M In U.S. Still On Jobless Benefits

Uneven Recovery: 2021 Begins With Around 20M In U.S. Still On Jobless Benefits

jobless benefits
People wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center, March 17, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Through the fall, winter and into the new year, U.S. jobless benefits claims have been about four times higher than before the pandemic, according to the Department of Labor’s first jobless report of 2021.

About 20.4 million people are still receiving some form of unemployment benefits, AP reported.

Delayed economic relief and a mismanaged public health crisis are pushing the economy into a double-dip recession, according to the Center for American Progress policy institute.

Lower-wage workers at restaurants, hotels, malls and retail establishments have been particularly hard hit, Wall Street Journal reported.

Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, said the job losses were concentrated in lower-paying service industries, “but those workers aren’t typically big spenders.” The top 20 percent of income earners account for more than half of consumer spending, Brown said.

Black workers bear the hardship for the ineffectual government response, Center for American Progress Economist Michael Madowitz said in a statement.

African American workers saw employment declines in December, while employment among white people increased by 38,000, Madowitz wrote.

“Black workers still face unemployment rates of nearly 10 percent, and there were fewer Black workers employed in December than November, with the entire decline in the unemployment rate for African Americans coming from people leaving the labor force.”

The December 2020 employment report, due on Friday Jan. 15 from the Labor Department, is expected to show that the job market failed to substantially heal in December, according to Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst at Bankrate.

The unemployment rate is expected to go up 0.1 percent to 6.8 percent, Hamrick told WGN Chicago. “This would be the weakest jobs report since the recovery began last May, following the loss of 22 million jobs in the two previous months.”

The emergency relief bill passed by Congress in December was crucial to help Americans through the next few months, but it’s not enough, Madowitz wrote. “There is not enough money to adequately fund vaccine distribution, which is ultimately our central route to fully recovering from both the economic and public health crises. Unemployed workers are still struggling to pay their bills. Lifesaving paid leave provisions expired at the end of last year. And many states and cities do not have enough money to meet payroll for vital public servants, including firefighters and teachers.”