According to the Labor Department, the U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs in December 2020 as businesses across the country continue to struggle during the pandemic. While restaurants and bars have been hit especially hard since winter weather has shut down outdoor dining, states have also laid off thousands of teachers and other public workers. All told, 9.8 million fewer Americans are working now than at this time last year.
And as long as the pandemic persists, it will be difficult for the economy to recover. “Until the virus is under control, until people can freely engage in economic activity again, there is one hand tied behind the economy’s back,” said economist Heidi Shierholz. Coronavirus vaccines could provide some hope, but their rollout so far has been much slower than expected.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. “It would be enough to have to deal with the fact that there was a virus,” said Sarah Sheets, a daycare operator from Texas. “But then the financial part of it has just pushed us over into a very difficult situation.” Before she started to receive $300 per week in additional benefits recently approved by Congress, Sheets said that her family was living on just $160 in weekly assistance for the last five months of the year. “We didn’t have Christmas this year,” said Sheets. “I had $200 for four children and dinner. It’s not going to be the same ever again.”
- Why are many businesses continuing to struggle during the pandemic?
- Do you think Americans should receive more federal relief as the pandemic goes on? Why or why not?
Sources: David J. Lynch, Eli Rosenberg and Andrew Van Dam, “The Economy Lost 140,000 Jobs in December,” The Washington Post, January 8, 2021.