Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Let’s start with the good news, at least as it pertains to the November 2020 jobs report released recently by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, marking the seventh straight month of improvement, after adding nearly 250,000 jobs last month.
The bad news? The rate at which the unemployment rate fell was a comparatively small decrease compared to previous reports – a sign that jobs being added are starting to decelerate. Things might not look a lot more promising next month after the magnitude of additional COVID-19 shutdowns is fully reflected in the Bureau’s reporting and after many government-backed assistance programs conclude (provided Congress is unable to reach an agreement to continue to fund them).
Experts say that if the jobs data that was reported in November continues on the same trajectory, it would take about four years to catch up to where the economy was in pre-pandemic times. Currently, the country would still need to add back about 10 million jobs to get back to where it was before the pandemic hit. That’s not good.
So, what does this all mean? It means that we should all prepare for what many have warned — these next two months could be the hardest as a nation that we’ve had to endure since the pandemic began. And we’re not just talking about from a case count and fatality perspective, but from an economic one as well. Many are calling the November jobs report a calming before the real storm hits.
To get an idea of just how significant the deceleration of job additions is, let’s look back at the summer when 2.7 million and 4.8 million jobs were added in May and June, respectively. Even this fall in the October jobs report, more than 600,000 jobs were added. November’s count of 245,000 isn’t ideal for the economy.
Also of concern in the November jobs report is that the Black unemployment rate is high. In fact, it estimates that about one out of every 10 black workers is unemployed – a significant contrast from the record-low Black unemployment rate in pre-pandemic times.
So what can be done? Perhaps the most essential thing that can be done right now is for Congress to pass another COVID-19 stimulus bill that would offer support to hard-hit industries and businesses still struggling from the pandemic’s fallout. Additionally, such a bill would ideally extend unemployment benefits so that out-of-work professionals can continue to make ends meet until things stabilize. The next thing that should be a priority is a robust vaccine distribution plan to ensure the COVID-19 pandemic can come to an end this spring or summer.
All signs point to the country being so close to coming out of this. Here’s to hoping we can get there with less pain and more gain.