History-defining question: Will 18 million ‘temporary’ jobless get their jobs back?

By | May 9, 2020

The Trump administration and the country face a major risk that, if the pandemic is not controlled relatively quickly, another economic depression is in store.

The country already is clearly in a form of recession, as confirmed by Friday’s April jobs report that showed unemployment rising to 14.7%.

But in theory, many of those workers, such as the 5.5 million newly jobless restaurant employees, could return to work very quickly if the pandemic ended and lockdowns were lifted.

The vast majority of job losers in April, 18 million of 20.6 million, according to the household survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are on temporary layoff.

The question is whether those hopeful workers are right, and they will be able to go back to their old jobs. If they are, the recession will be relatively short and the recovery very quick. If not, the country faces a disaster.

“One concern is about these temporary layoffs turning into more permanent layoffs,” said Nick Bunker, economic research director for the job site Indeed. “If we can get the public health response right … that means the return to work for workers would be easier.”

“It’s the sort of thing that’s good news if we think there can be a quick enough return to economic growth in increased hiring from employers if we can keep those relationships between these temporary layoff workers and their employers, so they could be recalled fairly quickly,” Bunker told the Washington Examiner.

But that reconnection depends on the virus being under control and the public being willing to venture out, as well as the businesses still existing by the time that happens.

President Trump assured people on Fox News Friday that all job losses are temporary.

“Those jobs will all be back, and they’ll be back very soon,” Trump said. “And next year, we’re going to have a phenomenal year.”

Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, too, said that it is good news that most of the laid-off workers considered their job losses temporary.

“Because this is a temporary virus cycle,” he said in an appearance on Fox Business. “This goes on now, my opinion, a few more weeks or a month.”

Coronavirus cases in the United States are approaching 1.3 million, and while the rate of increase slowed earlier this week, the number of new cases jumped by more than 4,000 from Wednesday to Thursday. Over 76,700 people have died, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that the state’s first case of community spread during the coronavirus pandemic occurred in a nail salon, which he used to defend his decision to keep nail salons and other personal services closed.

“This whole thing started in the state of California, the first community spread, in a nail salon,” Newsom said. “I just want to remind everybody of that and that I’m very worried about that.”

Reopening salons, Newsom said, will not be part of phase two of reopening the state’s economy.

The rollout of antibody tests in the U.S. has been met with skepticism from health officials, as they’ve been known to produce inaccurate results. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though, said Friday that New York’s antibody tests are not the “off-the-shelf antibody tests,” rather, they’re tests developed by the state’s health department that are guaranteed to be accurate.

Cuomo and Dr. Howard Zucker, New York’s commissioner of health, said they have total confidence in the tests, but their results have not informed policy decisions yet. For example, Cuomo said, people who test positive for having the antibodies in their system and are possibly immune to the coronavirus have not been cleared to go back to work.

“We’re not taking action off that antibody test,” Cuomo said. “We use it more for statistical purposes.”

Antibody testing revealed last month that a staggering number of New York City residents, nearly 25%, had been exposed to the coronavirus. Epidemiologists, though, have cautioned the public against drawing broad conclusions from the tests.

The Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use authorization to the first coronavirus test to be taken at home. Rutgers University’s test, which tests for the virus in saliva samples, received permission from the FDA last month to collect saliva samples from patients at test sites, according to the New York Times. Now, the lab can sell the tests for individual use at home as long as a physician places the order.

One in four people in the U.S. would refuse to get a coronavirus vaccine if one became available, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll. Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University, said that most people who oppose vaccination are either anti-vaccine or are concerned about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

Katie Miller, Vice President Mike Pence’s top spokesperson and wife of Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Politico.

Trump said Friday that she “tested very good for a long period of time. And then, all of a sudden, today, she tested positive.” Miller is the second person in Trump’s inner circle to test positive for the virus after one of his personal valets tested positive Thursday.