Deaths Surge And Unemployment Follows

Written by SK Ashby

The United States set a new record of over 3,000 coronavirus deaths yesterday and it will come as no surprise that the economy is suffering as a result the latest surge of the virus.

Trump decided he didn't care about the pandemic a long time ago and Senate Republicans checked out as well having refused to pass any stimulus or aid bills in the last eight months.

New, initial claims for unemployment increased slightly in last week's report from the Labor Department, but they exploded in this week's report; increasing by over 137,000 from the previous week.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for unemployment aid jumped last week to 853,000, the most since September, evidence that companies are cutting more jobs as new virus cases spiral higher.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of applications increased from 716,000 the previous week. Before the coronavirus paralyzed the economy in March, weekly jobless claims typically numbered only about 225,000. [...]

The total number of people who are receiving state-provided unemployment aid rose for the first time in three months to 5.8 million, the government said, from 5.5 million. That suggests that some companies have sharply pulled back on hiring.

The reason that deaths and unemployment at both surging at the same time, rather than just one or the other, is because Senate Republicans refuse to pay people to stay home from work.

In the absence of any relief programs, people had no choice but to return to work and get sick. We were set on this path from the moment Republicans allowed expanded pandemic unemployment benefits to expire on August 1st. And they allowed that to happen for a combination of ideological reasons and because they thought it would improve Trump's chances of being reelected if labor reports looked a little better.

The reports did look better for a time, but now we're moving in the other direction with nothing to show for it except millions of infections and more deaths.

I casually speculated that Joe Biden could enter office during a time of job losses rather than gains, but we could already be there now. The economy added 245,000 jobs in November according to the Labor Department, but over 850,000 were lost in just the first week of December and things are certainly going to look equally if not more grim over the next four weeks. Today marks 14 days since Thanksgiving, meaning infections stemming from that week have become symptomatic by now and the most severe cases will hit hospitals within the next week.

I don't know if we could be headed for a second mini-recession, but if Senate Republicans refuse to pass a relief bill before going home for the holidays, I don't think it can be ruled out.

At some point we have to recon with the fact that the majority of the costs of the pandemic have fallen on the working poor and to a slightly lesser extent the middle class. Poor people are the ones doing most of the dying and suffering the greatest financial consequences. Within the working poor the consequences have not been shared equally among minorities and white people. These facts and the Republican refusal to help and not a coincidence.