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article imageMillions of U.S. jobs are not coming back as country reopens

By Karen Graham     Jun 14, 2020 in Business
Markets cheered on June 5, when new data showed a surprising decline in unemployment in the United States. And this was welcome news for a country tired of being on lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis. But don't expect all jobs to come back.
Many people are of the belief that the coronavirus pandemic will redefine what people consider to be "normal." We are already seeing and experiencing a "new normal" as people return to work and school.
Social distancing and the wearing of face masks, limits on the number of customers allowed in a business at any one time, and temperature checks on all employees is part of the "new normal." Those people returning to a job should count themselves as lucky to have a place to go to work, simply because not everyone will have a job.
The reality is a lot harder to stomach folks. A new study from the Becker-Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago offers a sobering assessment of the extent of permanent damage to the job market.
Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (CC0 1.0)
“We find three new hires for every 10 layoffs caused by the shock and estimate that 42 percent of recent layoffs will result in permanent job loss,” write authors Jose Maria Barrero, Nick Bloom, and Steven Davis, according to Forbes.
Call it culture shock or just plain looking at the turn of events through rose-colored glasses, but the Federal Reserve and the current administration in the White House still think the economic downturn from the pandemic is going to only last a few months, then everything will be "back to normal."
A couple of reasons why jobs will not come back
Many economists are of the opinion that when jobs do come back, the mix of jobs won't be the same - for two reasons. One, obviously, is that some businesses have just given up and either closed for good or taken bankruptcy. We are already seeing thousands of job losses in just the past few weeks as large retail stores close their doors.
Unemployment lines are growing around the world
Unemployment lines are growing around the world
Secondly, the coronavirus has not only changed consumer buying habits but the way many firms do business. The latest trend is remote-working, or work-from-home, and remote-buying. Both of these minimize personal contact. If both these trends continue after the virus crisis, they could shake up the jobs market.
And to be fair, not every consumer trend can be blamed on the coronavirus, although COVID-19 has magnified some trends. Think about the huge increase in online shopping in the country. You can now buy everything from auto parts to groceries online today. This particular trend has only surged with the pandemic, so much so that many businesses were forced to close because they couldn't compete.
The inequality of the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed a disproportionate number of black Americans, and could very easily inflict long-lasting economic damage - undoing any gains made by African-Americans over the past several decades.
“The thing that disturbs me is how much longer it will take them to make up the gap,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who served on President Barack Obama’s economic team, according to CNBC News.
Hanging out on the weerkend. Image date: March 10  2019.
Hanging out on the weerkend. Image date: March 10, 2019.
Nokhuthula (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The biggest problem, other than having a hard economic recovery, is employment for black Americans. Historically, the unemployment rate for black Americans has been twice as high as for white workers, and this goes back as far as records are available.
The unemployment rate is always used as a key indicator of economic health. This "official" rate, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the “number of unemployed as a percentage of the labor force,” which only includes those working or actively seeking work.
This means that the numbers do not include those people not actively seeking work or those who have given up trying to find a job. Additionally, the BLS does not break down its unemployment statistics to include demographics on underemployed workers.
Bernstein estimates the underemployment rate for African Americans could now be above 30 percent. “If you factor in all the things that you can explain using conventional economic tools — education, age, gender, experience — you will explain only a relatively small part of that difference,” said Bernstein. “So you have to ask yourself what are you left with, and the answer is discrimination.”
More about coronavirus, reopening, Job losses, changing consumer preferences, Bankruptcy
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