Over the summer, the job market recovery looked decent, steadily chipping away at the more than 22 million jobs lost during the pandemic. But the jobs recovery has turned anemic in recent months.
The Biden administration will need to stimulate job growth and continue to support the unemployed, economists agree. They point at sobering comparisons from just about a decade ago: It took more than five years for the US job market to recover after the end of the Great Recession, when far fewer jobs were lost.
Help is on the way … but not soon enough
The jobs recovery is stuck in a rut — and the biggest source of help, a widespread vaccination program, is still months away.
“The timing of the vaccine rollout is the main factor affecting the speed of the labor market recovery,” said Cailin Birch, global economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, in emailed comments.
As the United States waits for widespread vaccination, the job market will continue to suffer greatly. Tighter restrictions in response to high infection rates will mean more unemployment over the winter months, said Birch.
A shot in the arm
Unfortunately for Biden — and the jobless — he has few tools at his disposal for a short-term boost.
“Stimulating the economy to create jobs is crucial,” said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, “both to the 26.1 million workers who are being directly harmed by the recession because they are either out of work or have had their hours and pay cut, and to the millions more who saw their bargaining power disappear as the recession took hold.”
Missing the boat on more stimulus next year could exacerbate these disastrous consequences and slow the recovery.
Washington’s lawmakers will have to consider worker protections in their plans for more stimulus, especially because many still can’t return to jobs that would put themselves or family members at risk of contracting the virus.