economy Markets

‘Temporary’ Precarity

"It’s totally expected, there’s no surprise."

The April jobs report was a tragedy of historic proportions - an unmitigated disaster. The cumulative financial and psychological toll on workers and their families when more than 20 million people lose their jobs in the space of a single survey period is simply unfathomable. Even if you're inclined to point to topped-up monetary assistance for the newly jobless (see here), it's important to note that the financial precarity which goes along with losing one's wage is only part of the suffering. The loss of dignity and sense of self-worth is devastating, especially for a given household's primary breadwinner. On Friday, following April payrolls, both Larry Kudlow and Kevin Hassett did their best to express empathy. Kudlow called the numbers "full of heartbreak and hardships", while Hassett echoed those sentiments, calling the unemployment figures "heartbreaking". (It's almost as if there's a White House script mandating use of the word "heartbreak".) While both men admitted that things are likely to get worse before they get better, Kudlow and Hassett were keen to point to the purportedly "temporary" nature of the layoffs. "Three-quarters of today's numbers are temporary layoff
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26 comments on “‘Temporary’ Precarity

  1. “Three-quarters of today’s numbers are temporary layoffs”. After which, we settle in with an unemployment rate about double that of last winter. Bullish!, I mean, bullshit.

  2. Pray for a vaccine that works. It’s the only cure I see that will give people the required comfort of returning to theaters,, restaurants, cruise ships, casinos and sporting venues any time soon. Etc.

    • Nearly half of Americans have said they would not take the vaccine if it was available….so what now?

      • Horrifying but not surprising if true. Where did that stat come from?

        • MSNBC this morning. Haven’t fact checked yet, but no reason to doubt that it comes from some pollster or other…for what it is worth, I’m not surprised

        • Miami Herald says 36% would refuse.

          • Thank you.

            I wonder how the narrative of “they will all start shopping & attending events once there is a vaccine” will hold up if so many people refuse to take it.

            Maybe it doesn’t matter. Refusing the vaccine will join refusing to wear a mask as another “Red Badge of Courage” against the liberal oligarchy seeking to steal away our liberties.

        • Yes, ignorance and stupidity are best friends.

    • Anonymous

      One PhD principal scientist (me) suggests that there could be no vaccine. Immune response will weaken after one-two years and most people will be sick again. In this case humanity will have to adapt to this disease like it had already adapted to flu, common cold or norovirus. Those with the weakest immune system (about 1%) will decease, rest will get used to corona. This year could be second big outbreak, next year will be two smaller outbreaks and from 2022 it will become a regular cold.

      • I suspect that is a pretty accurate forecast. My wife spent five years in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer’s and had regular bouts with undiagnosed respiratory distress. Didn’t kill her but it sure made her frequently miserable.

  3. i’m just amazed at how stupid the talking heads think we are, or have proven to be in the past. Dr H has done two fabulous things in these posts … a) making sure we do NOT forget that these numbers are people, not integers on a spreadsheet, and b) the absolute hilarity (fallacy) of the spinning … thanks Dr. H, and don’t let up.

  4. 80% is a fantasy number. it could only become a reality if things get back to a semblance of normal very quickly. that prospect is not so likely. next best is a realistic but optimistic assessment that things will come back after some adjustments. maybe 40% go back to their old employers. maybe 30% go back to a different employer but the same line of work. the other 30% are going to either retire, go on disability, or eventually find another line of work. however, you slice it, unemployment is going to be elevated for quite some time and there is going to be a lot of suffering.

  5. H – your reports from people you know and those on the island are the best.
    Unless I missed it, you haven’t reported on your neighbor, the guy with the cars that you talk to in his driveway.
    What’s he up to these days? The last report I read he thought things were great in an oblivious sort of way.
    Any good updates about him?

    • Clarification – your reports are the best. Sorry to hear these two women are in difficult situations.

  6. I guess if “only” 2 million wind up permanently unemployed it just a temporary dip — before long we will rocket back to the deficit, ZIRP (if not NIRP), QE fueled recovery with unbelievable growth rates that will slingshot the economy back to its 2019 level in 10 years or so. . .

  7. Temporary… until they’re permanent. I’ve been seeing restaurant and bar closures rapidly growing. Looking forward operating with roughly 50% less seating is going to prove untenable and only restaurants that can subsist on takeout and delivery can survive this long term. Mall’s and many shopping centers will likely have inadequate shoppers for the better part of 2 years. I suspect at least 90% of these layoffs will last 3-6 months minimum and 50% will prove permanent if not more. Don’t forget many industries are looking at the new normal and will likely begin layoff in coming months. This is going to be like falling down a flight of stairs in slow motion.

    • And let’s not forget that labor force participation was on the decline with automation and demography presenting major challenges before the Covid 19 hit.

    • I think the mall / large shopping center is about to go the way of the post-war urban commercial center. The pandemic is speeding up that process.

      I’m very curious what restaurants / eateries will do. Will eating out be an expensive privilege / experience that is heavily charged while the masses get delivery out the back?

      • Great point about restaurants, BB.

        In the same vein, I wonder how Main Street America feels if they bother to watch the (non-Fox) news tonight. “Dow rallies almost 500 points as unemployment hits 15%”

  8. Dana F Newman

    H, I liked your Tweet about the asteroid.

    Say not thou, “Why were the former days better than these?” For thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.

  9. Much like “Mexico will pay for the wall”, “China pays the tariffs”, “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away”…

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/15/opinion/trump-coronavirus.html

    “Those jobs will all be back, and they’ll be back very soon,”

    Will anyone hold this administration and party accountable for lies? Will the U6 be the swing votes in November?
    https://m.investing.com/economic-calendar/u6-unemployment-rate-1670

  10. Anonymous

    Good for you for helping others. I honestly think it is our moral obligation to help those in need. We have been fortunate in life. Time to build others up, help them battle through the challenges and come out better. May not be economically better in the end but personally better. Many people are going to face difficult decisions in many ways. If we can help them avoid the bad ones and come out better I think we actually made a difference in this world.

  11. Wow, 20 comments, and all are great. Not only do I appreciate Walt’s content and style, but also the intellect and perspective of his readers.

    As for these equity markets… No one whistles by a graveyard like Wall Street guy.

  12. This is more than numbers on a bar chart. In our life, and in the lives of those we love and know well, we are experiencing death of loved ones, financial loss, loss of livelihood and a path forward, inability to visit parents/grandparents/loved ones who are geographically distant, uncertainty and a heightened sense of needing to “batten down the hatches” and save money/spend less, not only for ourselves but so that we can financially help our recently launched children, if needed.
    There are some joyful personal connections that are occurring in our circle as well- as suddenly faced with “safer at home”, barriers between people that love each other but could not commit are being broken down and in the face of “armageddon”, the truth of what is important in life is rising to the top.
    I am a dreamer and I hope that Prof H will be lucky enough to find someone to “shelter in place” with, with whom he can find some joy and happiness. What a special person he seems to be.

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