COVID-19's Impact on the US Economy: Op-Ed
The US, as with many other countries, is experiencing difficulty in recovering its economy after the downturn caused by the pandemic. Millions of workers are still jobless even as some parts of the economy are booming, and inflation is rising. The stimulus in the economy is also bringing up concerns of further inflation, causing spending to drop. A drop in spending would be disastrous for the consumer-spending dependent economy the US has.
Opponents of increased unemployment benefits due to the pandemic argue that the unemployed are not returning to work because government aid creates a comfortable life. While on the surface, this appears to be a sound argument-- one that can be verified by data-- but the issue of worker shortages is an even more tangled web than it first appears to be.
It cannot be ignored that for some unemployed people, simply not returning to work is working out well. Research from the Bank of America shows that those who previously made less than $32,000 per year are better off collecting unemployment benefits than working. However, many of those same people need those benefits because they are unable to return to work for various reasons.
Subpar working conditions have given many individuals little incentive to return to jobs they previously held. Low wages and poor working conditions have made workers in industries such as the restaurant industry reluctant to return to labor under conditions that have become exacerbated by the pandemic. Enormous wage gaps, substance abuse problems, harassment issues, people living in or near poverty whilst working hourly jobs are just a few of the main obstacles.
Many women have dropped out of the workforce because of care obligations for children. Care obligations are not limited to only women: many others have been forced to drop out of the workforce due to care obligations for the elderly, disabled, or children as well.
Health concerns have also prevented many workers from returning as well. A significant portion of the currently unemployed held jobs in a service industry; working from home was not an option and will not be an option for them. Despite vaccination rates rising, many in the US are still unvaccinated. Furthermore, the limited supply and limited numbers of individuals able to administer vaccinations has caused further difficulties in getting people back to work. Workers in the service industry have the additional burden of having to deal with multitudes of people, creating a need for stricter disinfecting and sanitation requirements, and dealing with defiant customers that refuse to don a mask.
The pandemic has amplified trends that hurt local economies pre-pandemic. Online shopping has increased, preventing local stores from being able to compete with large companies. As a result, local businesses are forced to shut down, resulting in more unemployed individuals.