- The government reported that nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number to more than 36 million. That does not include the nearly 10 million who have exited the workforce entirely.
- Meanwhile, people all over the country have been unable to get unemployment benefits because systems are so bogged down.
- Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the downturn was “without modern precedent,” and warned it could create long-lasting damage if lawmakers do not provide more financial help.
- While Democrats have proposed a new $3 trillion stimulus package, Republicans and President Trump have said it is too soon after the last stimulus bill.
Unemployment Numbers Rise
The Labor Department reported on Thursday that nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of claims in the last two months to more than 36 million.
While the weekly count has been decreasing steadily since late March, the number of people out of work is actually a lot higher than what is reflected in those reports.
Last week, the Labor Department said that the actual unemployment rate for April may have been close to 20%, due to issues with the ways workers are classified. Their official count clocked it at just under 15%.
That is because the official unemployment rate only looks at the active labor force— the number of people working compared with the number of people who are looking for work or who have been “temporarily” laid off and expect to get their job back.
But that does not account for individuals who have exited the workforce altogether, like people who stopped working because they do not feel safe or those who are not actively searching for work because the job market is bad right now.
According to the Labor Department’s jobs report for April, 9.5 million people who were working in March had left the workforce by May. That’s nearly 10 million people who are not being counted in updated unemployment numbers, and if they were included, it would put the current count at 46 million.
Issues With Unemployment Systems
Even for the people who are still in the workforce and who are still trying to get unemployment benefits, there are still a ton of problems.
Numerous states have huge backlogs of unemployment claims, and people all over the country have reported that they have been unable to even reach their state agencies because the systems are so bogged down.
As of last week, 20 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have not paid out any benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that Congress passed as part of the stimulus bill to help freelancers, self-employed people, and other workers who normally would not be eligible for state unemployment benefits.
According to a poll for The New York Times conducted earlier this month by SurveyMonkey, more than half of the people who applied for unemployment benefits in recent weeks were unsuccessful.
In some states where people have been approved for those benefits, actually getting them has also been a slow process. In Florida, for example, less than half of all people with certified unemployment claims have actually started receiving benefits.
Jerome Powell’s Warning
Unfortunately, these are not problems that are simply going to start going away as more and more states begin to ease restrictions.
While more reopening means more rehiring and more people going back to work, most economists believe that it will take years to get the joblessness rate back to where it was before the pandemic.
As a result, many experts and officials say that the government needs to do more to help people and prop up the economy, like Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who gave an incredibly stark warning about the state of the economy during a teleconference Wednesday.
“The scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since the second world war,” he said.
Powell also warned that the current downturn could create serious and long-lasting damage to the economy if lawmakers do not provide more financial aid to address joblessness and prevent widespread bankruptcies.
Powell specifically said that he is worried about a domino effect situation with joblessness and spending. For example, if more and more consumers keep losing jobs, they spend less. That hurts restaurants, gyms, retail stores, and other businesses, which could force them to close, thus losing even more jobs.
While Powell applauded Congress and President Donald Trump for passing the nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill, he still said it is absolutely necessary that they do more.
“The recovery may take some time to gather momentum,” he said. “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”
Debate Over New Stimulus Bill
Powell’s remarks came just one day days after House Democrats proposed a $3 trillion stimulus package aimed at providing more relief to struggling Americans.
Among other things, the proposal includes another round of stimulus checks, a large chunk of aid to states and municipalities, and more money for the Paycheck Protection Program.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) immediately said the legislation was dead on arrival.
While Senate Republicans generally do agree that another stimulus package will be needed, they also think it is too soon after the last bill. They say the government should wait to see the economic benefits from all the states that have begun reopening.
That is also something that has been echoed by President Trump, who recently has said he expects to see a dramatic economic rebound as more restrictions are lifted.
However, it is currently unclear how big of an impact these reopenings have had on joblessness, at least so far. According to Labor Department data, even some states that rushed to open back up like Florida and Georgia still saw an increase in unemployment claims from last week.
There are also other issues that reopenings could cause when it comes to unemployment benefits, like the fact that some states are now taking a hardline approach to who gets benefits.
For example, Nebraska’s Labor Department posted a notice online saying failure to return to work “could be considered fraud” and potentially disqualify people from receiving benefits.
In South Carolina, workers are not eligible for unemployment if they do not work because they are isolating or have children to look after while schools are closed.
Those kinds of policies create more hurdles for people who desperately need help. It also puts some workers in a situation where they are forced to either stay home and not make money or work in potentially unsafe conditions.
That on its own is likely to put further strain on the economy, but it also risks more spread, which many experts have warned could undo all of the progress made and hurt the economy even more in the long run.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Guardian)
Florida School Says Students Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Must Stay Home for 30 Days
The school falsely claimed that people who have just been vaccinated risk “shedding” the coronavirus and could infect others.
Centner Academy Vaccination Policy
A private school in Florida is now requiring all students who get vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine for 30 days before returning to class.
According to the local Miami outlet WSVN, Centner Academy wrote a letter to parents last week describing COVID vaccines as “experimental” and citing anti-vaccine misinformation.
“If you are considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” the letter reportedly stated.
“Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has debunked the false claim that those newly vaccinated against COVID-19 can “shed” the virus.
According to the agency’s COVID myths page, vaccine shedding “can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus,” but “none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”
In fact, early research has suggested that vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.
Beyond that, unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID in general because they are much more likely to get the virus than vaccinated people. According to recently published CDC data, as of August, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die from the virus.
Centner Academy Continues Spread of Misinformation
In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Centner Academy co-founder David Centner doubled down on the school’s new policy, which he described as a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”
“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” he added.
The new rule echoes similar efforts Centner Academy has made that run counter to public health guidance and scientific knowledge.
In April, the school made headlines when its leadership told vaccinated school employees that they were not allowed to be in contact with any students “until more information is known” and encouraged employees to wait until summer to get the jab.
According to The New York Times, the following week, a math and science teacher allegedly told students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds.
The outlet also reported that the school’s other co-founder, Leila Centner, discouraged masking, but when state health officials came for routine inspections, teachers said they were directed in a WhatsApp group to put masks on.
See what others are saying: (WSVN) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)
Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem
Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.
Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg
In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism.
Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.
“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.“
Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice
“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.“
According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject.
Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out.
Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.
See what others are saying: (New York Post) (The Daily Mail) (Insider)
Biden Administration Orders ICE To Halt Workplace Raids
The Department of Homeland Security will now focus on targeting employers who exploit undocumented workers, instead of carrying out raids that dissuade those workers from reporting labor violations.
DHS Reverses Worksite Raid Policy
The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it was ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop workplace raids.
The move marks a reversal from Trump administration policies that have been strongly criticized by immigration activists who argue the efforts created fear in immigrant communities and dissuaded them from reporting labor violations or exploitative employment practices.
In addition to stopping the raids, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo that the administration will refocus enforcement efforts to instead target “employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities or impose unsafe working conditions.”
Mayorkas added that the immigration agencies housed in DHS will have the next 60 days to identify harmful existing policies and come up with new ones that provide better deportation protections for workers who report their employers.
In the Tuesday memo, the secretary argued that shift of focus will “reduce the demand for illegal employment by delivering more severe consequences to exploitative employers” and “increase the willingness of workers to report violations of law by exploitative employers and cooperate in employment and labor standards investigation.”
Labor Market Implications
The new policy comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing a critical labor shortage, including in many sectors that rely on immigrant labor.
Some companies that use undocumented workers pay them wages that are far below the market rate, which is not only exploitative but also undercuts competitors.
According to Mayorkas, the pivot to employer-based enforcement will help protect American businesses.
“By exploiting undocumented workers and paying them substandard wages, the unscrupulous employers create an unfair labor market,” he said in the memo. “They also unfairly drive down their costs and disadvantage their business competitors who abide by the law.”
It is currently unclear how effective the new efforts will be, but historical precedent does not paint an optimistic picture.
The Biden administration’s efforts closely mirror a similar move by the Obama administration, which attempted to reverse workplace raids authorized under President George W. Bush by targetting those who employ undocumented workers rather than the workers themselves.
That effort, however, still led to thousands of undocumented workers being fired.