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March 27, 2020

Good, Bad, and Ugly for American Workers

Congress’s relief package offers help, but there are already a great many opportunities.

An unprecedented 3.28 million workers filed for unemployment benefits. For context, consider that the two previous high-water weeks for unemployment claims — one during the Great Recession and the other in 1982 — fell short of the 700,000 mark. With the rumor circulating that our March unemployment rate may be 20% or more, COVID-19’s most dangerously ill patient may well be our economy.

Across the country, many “nonessential” businesses are shut down, and more than a few will never reopen. And while Democrats tried their best to take advantage of the crisis by stuffing far-left fantasy pork into an economic rescue package, they got one big wish: $260 billion in enhanced unemployment benefits. For most workers tossed out of a job by government edict, there will be an additional weekly cushion of $600 on top of whatever they collect from their state — a payment that will continue until at least July if necessary.

Of course, this “free” money (at least until tax time next year) will be a disincentive for some people who would otherwise be seeking new work. “Perhaps not coincidentally, $600 a week is what you would earn working 40 hours a week at $15 per hour (pretax),” observed Slate’s Jonathan Weissman. “And again, that’s in addition to normal unemployment insurance. For a lot of restaurant and retail workers who’ve been furloughed or laid off as a result of the crisis, it’s a pretty excellent deal.”

For those Americans who still have a work ethic, though, there are opportunities out there. For example, the closing of dine-in restaurants has greatly benefited Instacart, a delivery service that’s now booming and looking for help — to the tune of 300,000 new “shoppers.” As one might imagine, the warehouse sector is also booming, and retailers such as CVS, Dollar General, Walmart, and Amazon have announced a desire to hire.

Congress’s relief package also includes provisions to assist businesses big and small. Naturally, though, the Democrats who fought for those juicy unemployment benefits screamed bloody murder at the idea of helping businesses retain those workers in the first place. They also failed to consider which companies are more likely to have the resources to allow their employees to work from home. It’s worth reminding them, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out, “The reason to help companies hurt by this government-mandated national economic shutdown is so workers will have good jobs with good benefits to return to.” It may be a rough job market at the moment, but there is and will be work out there for those willing to try something a little different.

This pandemic will likely take an awful toll on small businesses, but the survivors will be more competitive. Add to that the prospect of reclaiming the pharmaceutical industry and some portion of our manufacturing capacity, and the American economic patient may make a full recovery sooner than we might otherwise have imagined.

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