Coronavirus pandemic job losses falling hardest on people who were already hurting

Paul Roberts, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

By contrast, workers with a graduate or professional degree, whose median income is $93,213 and who make up a fifth of the county's workforce, filed just 7% of ongoing jobless claims, according to Washington STEM and census data.

In other words, layoffs often struck hardest among those who could least afford to lose their jobs. "I don't have savings," said Katie Brodkin, 37, of Seattle, who lost her job as a pediatric dental assistant in March. Without the governor's eviction moratorium and a timely tax refund, she and her 6-year-old son "would have been out on the streets."

That points to yet another key difference with this recession: job mobility.

Workers whose jobs couldn't be done from home were more than twice as likely to be laid off than their work-from-home peers in King County, according to Washington STEM.

To be sure, these disparities could change with time. Glassman thinks that the longer the recession lasts (Washington is still seeing historically high levels of layoffs), the more we can expect additional layoffs in high-paying sectors.

Even by May, the state was seeing more initial jobless claims by workers in high-salary sectors such as tech and finance -- though at least some of those claims were likely fraudulent.


But because layoffs have declined steadily in recent weeks, the demographics of the job losses are unlikely to significantly change.

In fact, Washington STEM's data shows that in demographic categories such as race, gender, and age, disparities have actually widened over the course of the pandemic.

And those disparities will probably linger in the post-COVID economy.

For example, employment recovery will be much faster for information-related sectors, such as tech, where jobs more easily moved from offices to homes -- and where layoffs were less frequent to begin with. By contrast, sectors that have taken the biggest beatings are also likely to take the longest to return to pre-COVID-19 job levels.


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