Coronavirus hits jobs again, 140k jobs lost in December
The jobs crisis continues to spiral as the virus rages out of control. | Rogelio V. Solis/AP

WASHINGTON—The national coronavirus pandemic has hit workers’ jobs again. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Jan. 8 that companies shed a net of 140,000 jobs in December. The U.S. ended 2020 with a 6.7% jobless rate, compared to 3.6% in Dec. 2019.

But those jobs numbers actually understate the virus’s impact. And the day before BLS released the data, the country’s daily death toll set a record of 4,085.

That’s because the regular jobless report captures an economic portrait from mid-December, but the weekly unemployment insurance claims report, issued Jan. 7, showed 19.177 million (13.1%) of the nation’s 146.534 million workers received state or federal jobless aid as of mid-December.

Another 2.239 million workers sought state or federal jobless aid in the weeks ending Dec. 26 and Jan. 2, that weekly claims report said. They have yet to get it.

The monthly report showed 10.736 million people were jobless in early December, 8,000 more than the month before. Another 115,000 dropped out of the workforce that month. By contrast, before the pandemic hit, 5.844 million people were jobless in Dec. 2019. And 95.6 million people were out of the workforce that month. Now 100.66 million are.

The virus hit the restaurant industry particularly hard, again, in December, BLS said. And that’s beside the illnesses and deaths.

As of 8:30 am on Jan. 8, 21,585,630 people tested positive since the pandemic was first declared on March 13, 2020, and 365,539 have died. Just on the day of that weekly jobless claims report, 274,403 tested positive and those 4,085 previously sick died.

To put those numbers in perspective, the total number who’ve tested positive since the pandemic began exceeds, by 90,000, the populations of the nation’s six largest cities—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, and Philadelphia—combined. The cumulative death toll equals all of Anaheim, Calif., plus 15,000 people.

The December jobs report shows the pandemic hit hotels, restaurants, and bars hardest. They reported letting almost half a million workers go that month. The data would have been even worse if construction (+51,000 jobs), factories (+38,000), and couriers and messengers +37,000) hadn’t added jobs in December.

Big losses occurred in other sectors. One was mass transit. Those systems cut 9,000 jobs in December and 128,000—one of every four—in a year. Another was state and local governments. They dumped a combined 51,000 jobs, all in state higher education and local governments, in December. For the year, they’re down 1.35 million.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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