Show an ad over header. AMP

The long-term unemployed are taking the brunt of the drawn-out stimulus talks

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

One group of Americans needs a fresh stimulus package more than any other: The 2.4 million Americans — and rising — who have been unemployed for more than six months.

Why it matters: While the economic recession looks like it ended in April, rising long-term unemployment acts as a drag on the broader economy. Without new stimulus, the number of jobless could end up being almost as bad as the Great Recession of 2008-9.


  • "The longer people are unemployed, the more they run down assets and savings and that starts to really impact consumption and their ability to spend," Gabriel Chodorow-Reich, a Harvard economics professor, tells Axios.

The backstory: In April, for the first time since 2001, fewer than 1 million people were unemployed for more than six months.

  • That same month, the surge of coronavirus-related layoffs peaked. Today almost 1.5 million of those laid-off workers are still unemployed, and the ranks of the long-term jobless are rising at a rate not seen since the financial crisis.
  • The biggest job losses have been in leisure and hospitality, where the workforce is 3.8 million people smaller than it was in February. The food services industry is down 2.3 million jobs.

What they're saying: Harvard projections show long-term unemployment peaking in early 2021. Depending on the speed of the recovery, it's likely to reach 3.9 million people at best — and 5.1 million in a worst-case scenario.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, sees a peak of 5 million long-term unemployed as a baseline scenario, cautioning that with stimulus talks having broken down, the number could be more than double that “if we botch it.”

"If we provide stimulus, provide checks, provide unemployment insurance — all these things will support the economy and help businesses get back on their feet and help people get back to work. By not doing it, we're basically committing ourselves to a slower recovery, or even a backslide potentially."
Eliza Forsythe, economics professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

In normal times, the longer you're out of work, the more difficult it becomes to find a job. Employers don't like to hire people with large gaps on their résumé, or whose skills might be outdated or rusty.

  • Those rules don't necessarily apply in a pandemic. "Scarring effects on the labor force have also been less severe than feared," wrote Goldman Sachs economist David Mericle in a research note this week.
  • "Unemployment has fallen sharply, and most of the remaining job losers are either still on temporary layoff or are in industries that should largely recover with a vaccine. In addition, labor demand has rebounded much more quickly than last cycle, reducing the risk of widespread long-term unemployment."

The other side: There are 4.8 million Americans who are weeks away from being considered long-term unemployed, and more than 1 million have filed initial jobless claims (including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program) every week for the past six months.

  • So, "where long-term unemployment peaks depends on the virus and depends on policy," Zandi says.

Where it stands: The stock market, near record highs, is running on Fed liquidity and looking past the pandemic to an economy that has fully recovered and has put the coronavirus squarely in the rear-view mirror. But that means 2022 at the earliest.

The bottom line: We're only at the end of the beginning of the pandemic. Right now it's mostly too early to tell which jobs are simply going into hibernation for the duration of the crisis, and which ones are gone forever.

Defense makes closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson opened his closing argument on Monday by reminding the jury that Derek Chauvin "does not have to prove his innocence."

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial is seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades.

Keep reading... Show less

Merrick Garland: Domestic terrorism is "still with us" and remains critical threat

In his first major speech, Attorney General Merrick Garland warned the nation Monday to remain vigilant against the rising threat of domestic extremism.

Why it matters: Domestic terrorism poses an "elevated threat" to the nation this year, according to U.S. intelligence. Garland has already pledged to crack down on violence linked to white supremacists and right-wing militia groups.

Keep reading... Show less

"Nine minutes and 29 seconds": Prosecutors begin closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less

European soccer goes to war over wealthy clubs' plans for exclusive "Super League"

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Keep reading... Show less

81% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive earnings surprise for Q1

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

Keep reading... Show less

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hopping the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

Keep reading... Show less

All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, meeting Biden's April 19 deadline

All 50 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have now made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meeting President Biden's April 19 deadline.

Why it matters: The landmark speaks to the increased pace of the national vaccination campaign, but will increase pressure on the federal government, states and pharmaceutical companies to provide adequate vaccine supply and logistics.

Keep reading... Show less

Minneapolis braces for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

Minneapolis is waking up to images of an occupied city on Monday, as the city and the world await a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

What it's like: Residents running errands, picking up dinner and heading to the dog park in recent days encountered heavily-armed National Guard troops stationed throughout the city.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories