Washington, D.C. — Center for American Progress Economist Michael Madowitz released the following statement today on the December 2020 employment situation figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
December’s employment report underscores what has been apparent for months: Delayed economic relief and a mismanaged public health crisis are pushing the economy into a double-dip recession. Job growth had already slowed in each of the past six months, while weekly unemployment claims have been double the previous record for months. Since the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act in May, which contained much more support than last month’s $900 billion package, it has been clear that our economy needs considerable relief. Many senators gambled with lives and jobs, dithering for six months and ultimately low-balling the amount of relief America needs. Today’s report is a frightening signal that American workers are already paying the price for the Senate’s negligent treatment of the economy and the American people under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Today’s data also underscore who bears the hardship for this ineffectual response. Black workers still face unemployment rates of nearly 10%, and there were fewer Black workers employed in December than November, with the entire decline in the unemployment rate for African Americans coming from people leaving the labor force. The unemployment rates for Latinos and Latinas both increased by about a full percentage point. African American, Asian, and Hispanic workers all saw employment declines in December, while employment among white people increased by 38,000.
The emergency relief bill passed by Congress last month was a crucial down payment to help Americans through the next few months. But it is not enough, and Americans will once again face a relief cliff in March. There is not enough money to adequately fund vaccine distribution, which is ultimately our central route to fully recovering from both the economic and public health crises. Unemployed workers are still struggling to pay their bills. Lifesaving paid leave provisions expired at the end of last year. And many states and cities do not have enough money to meet payroll for vital public servants, including firefighters and teachers.
The United States urgently needs more relief. The pandemic is getting worse, and vaccine distribution is not keeping pace. Meanwhile, the economy continues to slow. The American people are struggling more with every passing month. They have elected a new administration and new Senate majority with a mandate for action. Now, this new leadership has the urgent task of quickly passing a substantial relief package to save lives, businesses, jobs, and homes before it’s too late.
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