The COVID-19 pandemic put millions of Americans through the wringer. We’ve seen improvements from our low points, but there’s still a long way to go.
Here are some numbers: Unemployment currently sits at 6.2%. That’s less than half of the pandemic peak of 14.7%. But the latest monthly jobs report shows we’re still down 9.5 million jobs from pre-pandemic times. It also shows an additional 4.2 million people were “prevented” from looking for work due to the virus.
The job market looks that way because of the effect COVID-19 has had on business — especially small business, responsible for the majority of job creation since 2000. Lockdowns and restrictions predictably fueled a rise in online shopping. But about a quarter of all adults are at least partially immunized now, and the situation is finally beginning to improve.
But it’s not bouncing back equally. We’ve seen what economists call a “K-shaped” recovery. While the wealthiest Americans enjoyed stock market records and soaring housing prices, low-income earners grappled with uncertain job prospects and poverty.
With the signing of the relief bill Thursday, the government has now spent $5 trillion on the pandemic. It’s significantly more than the $840 billion package passed during the Great Recession in 2009.
President Biden says there’s still a lot of work to be done to fully beat COVID-19. The economy hinges on it.