COVID Unemployment Worse Than Great Recession

  One of the most devastating aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak has been the financial impact on many households due to unemployment. In fact, the rates of job loss were not this bad even during the Great Recession. 

According to PEW Research, an additional 14 million people became part of the unemployed ranks between Feb. 2020 through May 2020 – going from 6.2 million to 20.5 million in under four months. At 3.8 percent, American unemployment was at one of the lowest levels in the post World War II era prior to COVID enforced restrictions. At 13 percent in May 2020, unemployment in the U.S. was at one of its highest rates, only surpassed by April. 2020 when it sat at 14.4 percent.  

During the Great Recession, which lasted from Dec. 2007 through June 2009, U.S. unemployment rates peaked in Jan. 2009 at 10.6 percent. Nearly four percentage points below our current ordeal’s high.   

Oregon was not spared, with jobs being lost at unheard-of rates as the pandemic first began. According to a report by Oregon Live, 250,000 Oregon jobs were lost between March and April of 2020 – a decline of 14 percent.  

However, unlike the Great Recession, Oregonians have not had to wait for years for things to improve. In Aug., 40 percent of the jobs lost because of the pandemic were restored, and the rate of new job loss fell to less than 5,000 per week. Also unlike that time, we have seen that job recovery happen in a matter of weeks where, according to Oregon Live, it took nearly seven years for Oregon to recover before.  

In Benton County, the unemployment rate in Feb. 2020 was 2.8 percent, peaked in April at 10.3 percent, and has since declined to 8.4 percent as of June. Better than in Oregon as a whole.  

Whether or not unemployment continues to trend down as the country becomes used to COVID-19 and the limitations imposed by this disease depends a great deal on how the efforts to contain the virus progress. In Oregon, there has been a 20 percent decrease in confirmed cases over the last 14 days, and a 23 percent decrease in deaths from COVID-19 during the same time period.   

However, if the decline continues and schools begin to reopen, we stand the risk of those numbers going up again.  

Sally K Lehman