South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)



“I am a little bit scared now about the help coming to an end because I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen ... If McDonald’s will hire me, I will take that job. If anyone will hire me, I would take the job.” AgnesMakoh­ka, who is receiving jobless benefits for the first time in her life

port for more financial assistance, though key difference­sbetweenth­etwosides remain.

Before the pandemic, last month’s job gain would have been considered healthy. But the U.S. economy is still nearly 10 million jobs belowits pre-pandemic level, with a rising proportion of the unemployed describing their jobs as gone for good. Faster hiring is needed to ensure that peoplewhow­ere laid off during the spring can quickly get back towork.

There is also evidence that the pandemic is inflicting long-term damage on millions of workers. People who have been out of work for six months or more — one definition of long-term unemployme­nt — now make up nearly 40% of the jobless, the highest such proportion in nearly seven years. The long-term unemployed typically face a harder time finding new jobs.

And the proportion of Americans who are either working or seeking work fell inNovember, suggesting thatmany people soured on their prospects for finding a job and stopped looking. That proportion declined to 61.5%, a level that before the pandemic not hadn’t been seen since the1970s.

In Columbus, Ohio, Agnes Makohka is unemployed and receiving jobless benefits for the first time in her life. Makohka, 45, lost her job as a human resources administra­tor nearly a year ago, well before the pandemic struck. Yet since the virus intensifie­d, it’s become much harder for her to findwork.

Makohka doesn’t have a car. AndinApril, bus service onher routewas temporaril­y canceled. Shestruggl­ed to buy groceries, much less look for work. Since then, Makohka has been scraping by with the help of food pantries and unemployme­nt benefits. But those benefits are set to run out Dec. 26.

“I am a little bit scared now about the help coming to an end because I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen,” Makokha said. “If McDonald’s will hire me, I will take that job. If anyone will hire me, I would take the job.”

The consequenc­es of the slowdown aren’t falling evenly on all Americans. Low-wage industries, like restaurant­s and bars and retail stores, actually cut jobs last month. And many mothers have been forced to stopworkin­g to take care of children that are in school online.

The unemployme­nt rates for Black and Latino workers fell much more last month than for whites. Still, the Black unemployme­nt rate was 10.3% and for Latinos 8.4%, compared with

5.9% for whites. Friday’s jobs report also reflects how the coronaviru­s has transforme­d the holiday shopping season. Transporta­tion and warehousin­g firms added

145,000 jobs in November, more than half the total job gain for the month. That trend reflected rapid hiring by shipping and logistics firms that are benefiting from the surge in online purchases by consumers shopping athome. Thatwas the biggestmon­thly job gain for that industry on records dating back to 1972.

Retailers, by contrast, shed 35,000 jobs — a reflection of fewer consumers shopping in physical stores.

Becky Frankiewic­z, president of the temporary staffing firm Manpower Group’sNorth American division, said that roughly

20% of the online job postings in November that her firm tracks were related to warehousin­g and logistics. Manpower’s clients were still interested in hiring last month. But the worsening virus and the uncertaint­y it brings have made them more cautious.

Frankiewic­z summarized their views as:“We are seeing increased demand, we know we have to hire but are they going to shut us down again?”

The impact of the pandemic last month was particular­ly visible in an employment category that includes hotels and entertainm­ent industries such as casinos and movie theaters. This group added just

31,000 jobs in November. That’s only about one-tenth of the gains of the previous two months and suggests that the virus spread, new business restrictio­ns and colder weather are forcing many businesses to closer their doors or limit hours.

U.S. deaths from the coronaviru­s topped 2,800 Thursday, a new high, with more than 100,000 Americans hospitaliz­ed with the disease, also a record, and new daily cases topping

200,000. In response, at least 12 states have imposed new restrictio­ns on businesses in the past month, according to an Associated Press tally.

Jon Tigges, who owns a bed- and- breakfast and wedding venue near Leesburg, Virginia, has lost about two-thirds of his normal wedding events this year, dealing a sharp blowto hisbottoml­ine. Outof about

35 part- time workers Tigges had employed before the pandemic, just a handful are likely to work on any givenweeke­nd.

“We’re hoping there will be another relief bill — I need another loan to bridge the winter months,” he said. “It’s going to take me 10 years to dig out of the hole that I’m in.”

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