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Citizens wearing protective masks form lines to receive free food from a food pantry run by the Council of Peoples Organization on May 8, 2020 in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Rich Mostly Fine But Poorest 'Completely Crushed' After Covid-19 Triggered 'Most Unequal' Recession in Modern US History

A new analysis by the Washington Post found that the coronavirus recession has eliminated low-wage jobs at around eight times the rate of high-wage jobs.

Jake Johnson

While the ongoing pandemic-induced economic collapse has left the highest earners in the U.S. largely unscathed—or, in the case of some billionaires, even wealthier than before—the recession has devastated lower-income workers whose jobs have been disrupted or completely wiped out, making the current downturn the "most unequal" in modern American history.

That's according to a detailed analysis released Wednesday by the Washington Post, which found that the coronavirus recession has eliminated low-wage jobs at around eight times the rate of high-wage jobs. Though no industry has been immune to the pandemic and resulting economic meltdown, the Post emphasizes that low-wage jobs tend to be concentrated in sectors that have been hit hardest by the recession, which triggered the sharpest economic contraction ever recorded in the U.S.

"What ties all of the hardest-hit groups together—low-wage workers, Black workers, Hispanic men, those without college degrees, and mothers with school-age children—is that they are concentrated in hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality jobs," the Post noted. "Most recessions, including the Great Recession, have affected manufacturing and construction jobs the most, but not this time. Nine of the 10 hardest-hit industries in the coronavirus recession are services."

In contrast, as the Post found, "By the end of the summer, the downturn was largely over for the wealthy—white-collar jobs had mostly rebounded, along with home values and stock prices. The shift to remote work strongly favored more-educated workers, with as many as six in 10 college-educated employees working from home at the outset of the crisis, compared with about one in seven who have only high school diplomas."

A series of charts published by the Post starkly display how the coronavirus recession has hit low-income Americans far harder than other major downturns in recent decades:

"There are very clear winners and losers here," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told the Post. "The losers are just being completely crushed. If the winners fail to help bring the losers along, everyone will lose. Things feel like they are at a breaking point from a societal perspective."

The analysis comes as the nation's economic metrics continue to show that there is no end in sight to the coronavirus recession, which has permanently wiped out millions of jobs and pushed countless Americans to or over the brink of financial ruin. As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, new research by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that 60% of U.S. households with children are struggling to afford basic expenses.

Commerce Department figures released Thursday show that personal income in the U.S. fell by 2.7% in August—the largest decline in three months—after the $600-per-week federal unemployment supplement expired due to Republican opposition.

Additionally, the Labor Department reported Thursday that 1.5 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week, bringing the estimated number of people in the U.S. who have applied for or are currently receiving unemployment benefits to around 28 million.

"That's 28 weeks in a row with more new jobless claims than the worst week of the Great Recession," tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

With the nation's economic conditions continuing to deteriorate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin jumpstarted stalled coronavirus relief negotiations this week in an effort to reach a deal before lawmakers leave town for their pre-election October recess.

The Democrat-controlled House is expected to vote as early as Thursday on a $2.2 trillion relief package that includes a $600-per-week federal unemployment supplement, another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to most Americans, and around $440 billion in aid to cash-strapped state and local governments.

During talks with Pelosi on Wednesday, Mnuchin reportedly put forth a less ambitious $1.6 trillion counteroffer that proposes a $400-per-week federal unemployment boost, $250 billion in state and local aid, and another round of stimulus payments.

"Today, Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification," Pelosi said in a statement following her meeting with Mnuchin on Wednesday. "Our conversations will continue."


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