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    They Never Could Work From Home. These Are Their Stories.

    Day after day, they went to work.While white-collar America largely worked from the cocoons of their homes, these workers left for jobs elsewhere. Most had no choice.For many workers around the country, the Delta variant’s surge this summer upended long-awaited plans to return to the office this fall. But millions more — including nurses, cashiers, restaurant and grocery workers, delivery drivers, factory workers, janitors and housekeepers — never worked from home in the first place.“They’re the people who often are working around the public, often working in jobs that are requiring them to be at particular risk from the virus,” said Eliza Forsythe, an economist at the University of Illinois. “All of these types of jobs where you’re not sitting at a computer — that’s what’s really been the backbone for allowing the rest of the economy to go remote.”More than a year and a half after the pandemic disrupted nearly all aspects of everyday life, one of the starkest economic divides to emerge has been between workers who can work from home and those who cannot.We asked six never-remote workers about their experiences and they shared their stories below.Just 35 percent of Americans — fewer than 50 million people out of 137 million — worked from home at some point in May 2020 because of the pandemic, when remote work was at its peak, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Those who could not work from home were employed in a wide array of industries, including health care, agriculture, leisure and hospitality, retail, transportation, construction and manufacturing. Many were considered part of the army of frontline and essential workers, with jobs that were considered so critical that they could not be put on hold even during a public health crisis. They were typically lower-wage, less educated and disproportionately people of color. During a time when millions of Americans lost their jobs, a portion of these workers — those who worked throughout the pandemic or who were only unable to work in the early days of the virus — could be considered relatively lucky. At the same time, many of these never-remote workers could not afford, or did not have the necessary skills, to find other jobs despite the fear of contagion. And a large share also lost their jobs completely, in part because they were unable to work remotely when their businesses temporarily or permanently closed during the pandemic. Many of these workers had jobs in the service industry. Perhaps most importantly, the pandemic has shed more light on how grueling and thankless many of these never-remote jobs are — a parallel universe of work in which millions of employees did not have the luxury of thinking about returning to the office at all.(The workers’ interviews have been edited for length and clarity.)Anjannette Reyes, 54, Orlando, Fla.Airport wheelchair attendantPhotography by Eve Edelheit for The New York TimesSo many didn’t come back to work. People are afraid to work at the airport. We push more than one wheelchair at the same time because we don’t have manpower. Sometimes for international flights, we have 17 wheelchairs and only two of us. We take them through security and run to get the others. People miss flights. People cry. We’re constantly apologizing.I was recently hurt from pushing too many wheelchairs. My whole arm felt like needles and pounding. The doctor said I had a tear. I was off for two weeks. I didn’t get paid for that.I earn $7.58 an hour plus tips. You don’t get sick pay. You don’t get vacation pay. There’s no retirement pay. There are other people who are injured and still pushing chairs. There’s people with back ulcers and shoulder pain. Co-workers are getting sick. I tell them, “Go home.” But they don’t. They rely on the tips to survive.Even though I’m going through this, I don’t feel safe getting another job out there. If there’s another breakout, we’ll feel safer at the airport. This is the only place that kept on going because they needed to move people around — people who were sick, doctors, lawyers. We needed to keep the airport open.Avelina Mendes, 63, Brockton, Mass.College custodianPhotography by Gretchen Ertl for The New York TimesAt first, I didn’t know how serious the virus was. I mean, I protected myself, but I didn’t pay that much attention to it until my sister got Covid. It was Dec. 27.She had the symptoms. She’s 75. She decided to go to the emergency room so she took a shower and then, all of a sudden, she collapsed. She hurt her back. She’s been paralyzed since.She’s in a nursing home now. I used to go and see her from the window and we would talk on the phone. She would tell me what she wants and I would bring it. She likes to eat Cape Verdean food.Every time I think about it, I cry. Then I wipe my tears, put my mask on and go to work.I clock in. I put all the trash outside. After I disinfect the bathroom, I vacuum the lobby. As long as it’s not that many cases on campus, I feel pretty good about it.But if it goes up, that’s when the fear comes. I panic. I lose sleep. When I think about my sister, that could be me. I am out all the time, doing the work.Kim Ducote, 42, St. George, UtahRestaurant server and homeless shelter case managerPhotography by Bridget Bennett for The New York TimesI was jobless from March 15 to August of 2020, and I had $200 left in my bank account. And some friends of mine opened a restaurant and they offered me a serving position there. I was the only server. And I thought ‘Oh my god, this was a godsend.’ Like, I had no idea what I was going to do. I’m down to $200 in my bank, no options. I didn’t really want to go back into the service industry but this was the only opportunity that presented itself.I went back, and things were starting to look up and go well. And I started making money again and people were loving this food and we were really quickly building a name for ourselves. And in October, all three of us got Covid so we had to shut down for I think it was just over six weeks.The husband-and-wife chef team — they got Covid really bad. Their symptoms were pretty severe. And for me, I just had a terrible headache, a very slight cough and severe exhaustion for about three days, and then I bounced right back. And they were unsure how long it was going to take them to reopen.So during that time, I decided ‘Well, I can’t be jobless again for an indefinite period of time. I have to look for something else.’ So I applied at a local homeless shelter and I got a job there.Juan Sanchez Bernal, 62, Harrison, N.J.Commuter rail custodianPhotography by Juan Arredondo for The New York TimesWhen the pandemic began, the number of people we saw in the offices, it almost dropped to half. It created panic. Many of us would have loved to work from home, but sadly, because we are cleaning people, how can we?One employee from our group got sick and died. I felt sad. We were a team, you know? We talked about baseball, basketball, about the countries we came from.This is the country that chose us. If in a moment of crisis, we got to choose between the things we like and the things we don’t like, what’s the contribution we are making? We have all done the essential work required — we have all contributed our grain of sand.We didn’t stop working. I arrive at 6 in the morning. We take out the trash. We are always disinfecting. We always use masks.My youngest daughter studied from home because her university was closed. She was watching over me. When I came back from work, she was all over me: Did you wash your hands? Take off your clothes! Take a shower right now! My other daughter called all the time.I would tell them, ‘Remember that everybody who was born has to die, so calm down.’ They laughed. If you get more stressed, you’ll die faster. So, you better laugh.Isabela Burrows, 19, Grand Blanc, Mich.Pet store workerPhotography by Brittany Greeson for The New York TimesI don’t want people to be treated the same way that I have been and to feel that loneliness and fear that I felt.I started working at a major pet store in late September last year. I made $10.50 an hour. For the first five months of my job, I was just a cashier. One day, a tall, bulky man leaned around my Plexiglas shield and purposely coughed. I think we were out of the dog food that he needed or something.My brother passed on May 22. He was my little buddy. He had a stroke that crushed his brain stem. He couldn’t keep going, so we decided it would be best if we took him off life support. My manager was not empathetic or compassionate. She even told me to just get over it, that my feelings from home didn’t transfer over to work. It was traumatic. I was not comfortable working in that store anymore. I transferred in mid-June.My new store is short staffed. We’re all being wrung dry. You’ll be trying to unload inventory from a truck shipment and then there will be someone needing fish or four different phone calls. Sometimes someone will forget to give the birds more millet.I’m worried about the weather getting cold again, if the cases will spike and whether my family and co-workers will be safe. I’ve already had one loss this year.April Fitch, 58, Newark, N.J.Airport security guardPhotography by Juan Arredondo for The New York TimesMore people would have preferred to stay home or work from home. If I had that opportunity, I would have, most definitely.I caught Covid at the end of March. I was not feeling well. My mom was in a nursing home. I called her on April 6 and told her that my birthday was soon. I told her, “I’m coming to break you out of the house.” She laughed. On April 8, the nursing home called me and told me she was taken to the hospital. A week later she passed away due to Covid.I ended up using two weeks of vacation days, all of my sick days and they gave me my three days for bereavement. There was no time to even deal with the fact that I lost my mom while I was dealing with Covid myself.The first day going back to work was scary. I’m still scared. It’s very crowded now. I try to stay six feet apart. If someone asks me a question, I try to keep them at a distance.Aidan Gardiner contributed reporting on the worker interviews. Eduardo Varas translated Juan Sanchez’s interview from Spanish. More

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    Biden’s New Vaccine Push Is a Fight for the U.S. Economy

    The effort reflects the continuing and evolving threat the coronavirus pandemic poses to the economic recovery.WASHINGTON — President Biden’s aggressive move to expand the number of vaccinated Americans and halt the spread of the Delta variant is not just an effort to save lives. It is also an attempt to counter the continuing and evolving threat that the virus poses to the economy.Delta’s rise has been fueled in part by the inability of Mr. Biden and his administration to persuade millions of vaccine-refusing Americans to inoculate themselves against the virus. That has created another problem: a drag on the economic recovery. Real-time gauges of restaurant visits, airline travel and other services show consumers pulled back on some face-to-face spending in recent weeks.After weeks of playing down the threat that a new wave of infections posed to the recovery, the president and his team blamed Delta for slowing job growth in August. “We’re in a tough stretch,” he conceded on Thursday, after heralding the economic progress made under his administration so far this year, “and it could last for a while.”The virus threatens the recovery even though consumers and business owners are not retrenching the way they did when the coronavirus began to spread in the United States in the spring of 2020. Far fewer states and cities have imposed restrictions on business activity than in previous waves, and administration officials vowed on Thursday that the nation would not return to “lockdowns or shutdowns.”But a surge in deaths crippled consumer confidence in August and portends a possible chill in fall spending as people again opt for limited in-person commerce. The unchecked spread of the virus has also contributed to a rapid drop in the president’s approval ratings — even among Democrats.The explosion of new cases and deaths also appears to have deterred many would-be workers from accepting open jobs in businesses across the country, economists say. That comes as businesses and consumers are complaining about a labor shortage and as administration officials pin their hopes on rising wages to power consumer spending in place of fading government support for distressed families.The plan Mr. Biden announced on Thursday would mandate vaccinations for federal employees and contractors and for millions of health care workers, along with new Labor Department rules requiring vaccines or weekly tests for employees at companies with more than 100 employees. It would push for more testing, offer more aid to small businesses, call on schools to adopt vaccine requirements and provide easy access to booster shots for eligible Americans. The president estimated the requirements would affect 100 million Americans, or about two-thirds of all workers.“We have the tools to combat the virus,” he said, “if we can come together and use those tools.”Mr. Biden faces political risks from his actions, which drew swift backlash from many conservative lawmakers who accused him of violating the Constitution and abusing his powers.But administration officials have always viewed vaccinating more Americans as the primary strategy for reviving the recovery.“This is an economic downturn that has been spawned from a public health crisis,” Cecilia Rouse, the chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said last month in an interview. “So we will get back to economic health when we get past the virus, when we return to public health as well.”That is likely true even in places that already have high inoculation rates. Mr. Biden’s inability thus far to break through vaccine hesitancy, particularly in conservative areas, has also become a psychological spending drag on those in highly vaccinated areas. That is because vaccinated Americans appear more likely to pull back on travel, dining out and other activity out of fear of the virus.“People who vaccinate themselves very early are people who are already very careful,” said Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, a University of Pennsylvania economist who has studied the interplay between the pandemic and the economy. “People who do not vaccinate themselves are less careful. So there is a multiplier effect” when it comes to those kinds of decisions.The economic effect from the virus varies by region, and it has changed in key ways over the course of the pandemic. In some heavily vaccinated parts of the country — including liberal states packed with Mr. Biden’s supporters — virus-wary Americans have pulled back on economic activity, even though infection rates in their areas are low. In some less-vaccinated states like Texas that have experienced a large Delta wave, data suggest rising hospitalization and death rates are not driving down activity as much as they did in previous waves.“It appears the latest Covid surge has been less impactful on the economy than previous surges in Texas,” said Laila Assanie, a senior business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, which surveys employers in the state each month about their activity during the pandemic.Business owners, Ms. Assanie said, “said they were better prepared this time around.”The threat of the Delta variant has caused consumers to pull back on some face-to-face spending.Brittainy Newman for The New York TimesRespondents to the survey said consumer spending had not fallen off as much this summer, compared with the initial spread of the coronavirus in March 2020 or a renewed spike last winter, even as case and hospitalization rates neared their previous peak from January. But many employers reported staffing pressures from workers falling ill with the virus. The share of businesses reporting that concerns about the pandemic were an impediment to hiring workers tripled from July to August.Data from Homebase, which provides time-management software to small businesses, show that employment in entertainment, dining and other coronavirus-sensitive sectors has fallen in recent weeks as the Delta variant has spread. But the decline is smaller than during the spike in cases last winter, suggesting that economic activity has become less sensitive to the pandemic over time. Other measures likewise show that economic activity has slowed but not collapsed as cases have risen..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}That trend has helped bolster overall consumer spending and hiring in the short term and helped keep the economy on track for its fastest annual growth in a quarter century. But there is a risk that it will be undercut by a continued pandemic dampening of labor force participation. Economists who have tracked the issue say that even if consumers have grown more accustomed to shopping or dining out as cases rise, there is little sign that would-be workers, even vaccinated ones, have become more accepting of the risks of returning to service jobs as the pandemic rages.“It’s becoming increasingly clear that employers are eager to hire,” said Andrew Atkeson, an economist at the University of California at Los Angeles who has released several papers on the economics of the pandemic. “The problem is not that people aren’t spending. It’s that people are still reluctant to go back to work”The Delta wave also appears to be sidelining some workers by disrupting child care and, in some cases, schools — forcing parents to take time off or to delay returning to jobs.Some forecasters believe the combination of rising vaccination rates and a growing share of Americans who have already contracted the virus will soon arrest the Delta wave and set the economy back on track for rapid growth, with small-business hiring and restaurant visits rebounding as soon as the end of this month. “Now is the time to start thinking about the post-Delta world,” Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a research note this month.Other economists see the possibility that a continued Delta wave — or a surge from another variant in the months to come — will substantially slow the recovery, because potential workers in particular remain sensitive to the spread of the virus.“That’s a very real danger,” said Austan Goolsbee, a former head of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama whose research earlier in the pandemic showed fear, not government restrictions, was the driving force behind lost economic activity from the virus.“At the same time,” Mr. Goolsbee said, “it also shows promise: the fact that when we get control of the spread of the virus, or even stabilize the spread of the virus, the economy wants to come back.”The greatest lift to the country, and likely to Mr. Biden’s popularity, from finally curbing the virus would not be regained business sales or jobs created. It would be stemming a death toll that has climbed to about 650,000 since the pandemic began.“I always tell undergraduates, when they take economics with me, that economics is not about optimizing output,” said Mr. Fernández-Villaverde, the University of Pennsylvania economist. “It’s about optimizing welfare. And if you’re dead, you’re not getting a lot of welfare.”Ben Casselman More

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    Biden's Infrastructure Plan: Scarcity of Skilled Workers Poses Challenge

    One estimate says the bill would add $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over eight years, but without enough workers, efforts to strengthen roads and public transit could be set back.WASHINGTON — The infrastructure bill that President Biden hopes to get through Congress is supposed to create jobs and spur projects for companies like Anchor Construction, which specializes in repairing aging bridges and roadways in the nation’s capital.But with baby boomers aging out of the work force and not enough young people to replace them, John M. Irvine, a senior vice president at Anchor, worries there will not be enough workers to hire for all those new projects.“I’d be surprised if there’s any firm out there saying they’re ready for this,” said Mr. Irvine, whose company is hiring about a dozen skilled laborers, pipe layers and concrete finishers. If the bill passes Congress, he said, the company will most likely have to double the amount it is hiring.“We will have to staff up,” Mr. Irvine said. “And no, there are not enough skilled workers to fill these jobs.”Mr. Biden has hailed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill as a way to create millions of jobs, but as the country faces a dire shortage of skilled workers, researchers and economists say companies may find it difficult to fill all of those positions.The bill could generate new jobs in industries critical to keeping the nation’s public works systems running, such as construction, transportation and energy. S&P Global Ratings estimated that the bill would lift productivity and economic growth, adding $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over eight years. But if there is not enough labor to keep up with the demand, efforts to strengthen the nation’s highways, bridges and public transit could be set back.“Do we have the work force ready right now to take care of this? Absolutely not,” said Beverly Scott, the vice chair of the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey found that 88 percent of commercial construction contractors reported moderate-to-high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers, and more than a third had to turn down work because of labor deficiencies. The industry could face a shortage of at least two million workers through 2025, according to an estimate from Construction Industry Resources, a data firm in Kentucky.The pandemic has compounded labor shortages, as sectors like construction see a boom in home projects with more people teleworking and moving to the suburbs. Contractors have also faced a scarcity of supplies as prices soared for products like lumber and steel.Job openings in construction have picked up at a rapid clip after the sector lost more than one million jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. According to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis, construction job openings have increased by 12 percent from prepandemic levels. But the sector is still down about 232,000 jobs from February 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.The issue underscores a perennial challenge for the skilled trades. Not enough young people are entering the sectors, a concern for companies as older workers retire from construction, carpentry and plumbing jobs. And although many skilled trade positions have competitive wages and lower educational barriers to entry, newer generations tend to see a four-year college degree as the default path to success.Infrastructure workers tend to be older than average, raising concerns about workers retiring and leaving behind difficult-to-fill positions. The median age of construction and building inspectors, for instance, is 53, compared with 42.5 for all workers nationwide. Only 10 percent of infrastructure workers are under 25, while 13 percent of all U.S. workers are in that age group, according to a Brookings Institution analysis.“The challenge is, how are we going to replace — not just grow, but replace — many of the workers who are retiring or leaving jobs?” said Joseph W. Kane, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “​A lot of people, especially younger people, just aren’t even aware that these jobs exist.”Community colleges, which offer a variety of vocational training programs, have suffered steep declines in enrollment. A recent estimate from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that community colleges were the hardest hit among all colleges, with enrollment declining by 9.5 percent this spring. More than 65 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment losses this spring occurred at community colleges, according to the report.John M. Irvine, a senior vice president at Anchor Construction, worries there will not be enough workers to hire for new projects.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesNicholas Kadavy, a third-generation mason who owns Nebraska Masonry in Lincoln, Neb., has seen his workload triple since April. He said his company had already scheduled out work until June 2022.He wants to hire more skilled masons to finish the projects sooner, but he can’t find enough people to fill the dozen positions he has open, even though he is willing to pay up to $50 an hour — twice what he offered before the pandemic. He checks his email daily, waiting for more applications to come in.“My biggest struggle is finding guys that want to work,” Mr. Kadavy said.Even when he does hear from applicants, Mr. Kadavy said, he is unable to hire many of them because they are not qualified enough. He was already seeing a shortage of skilled masons before the pandemic, he said, and he worries that the craft is “dying” because newer generations are not pursuing the field.The nation’s public transit systems would receive $39 billion under the infrastructure bill, allowing agencies to expand service and upgrade decades-old infrastructure. But transit agencies are dealing with worker shortages of their own, facing a dearth of bus drivers, subway operators and maintenance technicians.Metro Transit in Minneapolis is trying to hire about 100 bus drivers by the end of the year, said Brian Funk, the agency’s acting chief operating officer. The agency had originally aimed to hire 70 workers by the end of June, but it met only about half of that goal.Although he is optimistic that the agency will be able to fill those remaining positions after ramping up efforts to promote the openings, he said he was still wary about some workers choosing to leave.“We know that every day that goes by, there’s the potential that somebody else is looking at either retirement or another job,” Mr. Funk said.Some are optimistic that policymakers will be able to scale up work force development programs to keep up with the demand the infrastructure bill would create. Projects could take several months to get started, economists said, giving the country time to train workers who are not yet qualified.“These problems are not insurmountable,” said Nicole Smith, the chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Not having a sufficiently trained work force is something that can be addressed.”But others are worried that the bill does not do enough to draw more people into infrastructure fields, especially historically underrepresented groups like women and people of color. Although Mr. Biden originally proposed a $100 billion investment in work force development, that funding was left out in the latest version of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The funding would have invested in job training for formerly incarcerated people and created millions of registered apprenticeships, among other things.Last week, the National Skills Coalition and more than 500 other organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership calling on it to include the funding in a separate reconciliation bill.“President Biden promised that economic recovery was going to be predicated on equity,” said Andy Van Kleunen, the chief executive of the National Skills Coalition. “Work force training has to be part of that answer.” More

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    Fed’s Williams hints that bond-buying taper could start even if job gains slow.

    John C. Williams, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a powerful monetary policy official, hinted on Wednesday that it might be possible for the central bank to begin removing support for the economy before the end of the year even if the job market grows at a lackluster pace in coming months.The Fed has been buying $120 billion in government-backed bonds each month to help the economy by keeping interest rates low and money flowing. Policymakers have been debating when to begin slowing that program. They said in December that they would do so only once they had made “substantial further progress” toward maximum employment and inflation that averages 2 percent over time.Key policymakers have made it clear that the inflation side of that goal has been satisfied, with prices up markedly this year, but they have been waiting for more progress on employment. Assessing the job market has been complicated by surging coronavirus infections tied to the Delta variant, and payroll gains slowed in August.Mr. Williams, who holds a constant vote on monetary policy and is foremost among the central bank’s 12 regional policymakers, told reporters on Wednesday that he had been looking at the cumulative level of employment progress rather than month-to-month changes — suggesting that weakening jobs growth would not necessarily make impossible a start to the so-called taper. “It’s not a speed condition,” Mr. Williams said. “It’s really about, where are we, relative, on this path back toward maximum employment?”He added that he was looking not just at job gains but also at measures like labor force participation for a “full picture” of how much progress the job market has made.“Some months come in stronger, some not so strong,” Mr. Williams said. “It’s really about accumulation.”He added, “We’ll have to wait and see the data as it comes in.”Mr. Williams said during a speech earlier in the day that if the economy continued to improve as he expected, “it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year.” Pulling back on bond buying will be just a first step in removing support, and the Fed’s policy interest rate is expected to remain at near zero for some time.His comments came just as the Fed released its latest anecdotal survey of business contacts across its regional districts, commonly called the “Beige Book.” “Delta” was referenced 32 times as employers reported that “growth downshifted slightly to a moderate pace in early July through August.” More

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    If You Never Met Your Co-Workers in Person, Did You Even Work There?

    Kathryn Gregorio joined a nonprofit foundation in Arlington, Va., in April last year, shortly after the pandemic forced many people to work from home. One year and a zillion Zoom calls later, she had still never met any of her colleagues, aside from her boss — which made it easier to quit when a new job came along.Chloe Newsom, a marketing executive in Long Beach, Calif., cycled through three new jobs in the pandemic and struggled to make personal connections with co-workers, none of whom she met. Last month, she joined a start-up with former colleagues with whom she already had in-person relationships.And Eric Sun, who began working for a consulting firm last August while living in Columbus, Ohio, did not meet any of his co-workers in real life before leaving less than a year later for a larger firm. “I never shook their hands,” he said.The coronavirus pandemic, now more than 17 months in, has created a new quirk in the work force: a growing number of people who have started jobs and left them without having once met their colleagues in person. For many of these largely white-collar office workers, personal interactions were limited to video calls for the entirety of their employment.Never having to be in the same conference room or cubicle as a co-worker may sound like a dream to some people. But the phenomenon of job hoppers who have not physically met their colleagues illustrates how emotional and personal attachments to jobs may be fraying. That has contributed to an easy-come, easy-go attitude toward workplaces and created uncertainty among employers over how to retain people they barely know.Already, more workers have left their jobs during some pandemic months than in any other time since tracking began in December 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In April, a record 3.9 million people, or 2.8 percent of the work force, told their employers they were throwing in the towel. In June, 3.8 million people quit. Many of those were blue-collar workers who were mostly working in person, but economists said office workers who were stuck at home were also most likely feeling freer to bid adieu to jobs they disliked.“If you’re in a workplace or a job where there is not the emphasis on attachment, it’s easier to change jobs, emotionally,” said Bob Sutton, an organizational psychologist and a professor at Stanford University.While this remote work phenomenon is not exactly new, what’s different now is the scale of the trend. Shifts in the labor market usually develop slowly, but white-collar work has evolved extremely quickly in the pandemic to the point where working with colleagues one has never met has become almost routine, said Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank.“What it says the most about is just how long this has dragged on,” she said. “All of a sudden, huge swaths of white-collar workers have completely changed how they do their work.”The trend of people who go the duration of their jobs without physically interacting with colleagues is so new that there is not even a label for it, workplace experts said.Many of those workers who never got the chance to meet colleagues face to face before moving on said they had felt detached and questioned the purpose of their jobs.Ms. Gregorio, 53, who worked for the nonprofit in Virginia, said she had often struggled to gauge the tone of emails from people she had never met and constantly debated whether issues were big enough to merit Zoom calls. She said she would not miss most of her colleagues because she knew nothing about them.“I know their names and that’s about it,” she said.Other job hoppers echoed the feeling of isolation but said the disconnect had helped them reset their relationship with work and untangle their identities, social lives and self-worth from their jobs.Joanna Wu, who started working for the accounting firm PwC last September, said her only interactions with colleagues were through video calls, which felt like they had a “strict agenda” that precluded socializing.“You know people’s motivation is low when their cameras are all off,” said Ms. Wu, 23. “There was clear disinterest from everyone to see each other’s faces.”Joanna Wu said her only interactions with colleagues were through video calls, which felt like they had a “strict agenda” that precluded socializing.Akilah Townsend for The New York TimesInstead, she said, she found solace in new hobbies, like cooking various Chinese cuisines and inviting friends over for dinner parties. She called it “a double life.” In August, she quit. “I feel so free,” she said.Martin Anquetil, 22, who started working at Google in August last year, also never met his colleagues face to face. Google did not put much effort into making him feel connected socially, he said, and there was no swag or other office perks — like free food — that the internet company is famous for..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Mr. Anquetil said his attention had begun to wander. His lunchtime video game sessions seeped into work time, and he started buying basketball highlights on N.B.A. Top Shot, a cryptocurrency marketplace, while on the clock. In March, he quit Google to work at Dapper Labs, the start-up that teamed up with the National Basketball Association to create Top Shot.If one wants to work at Google and “put in 20 hours a week and pretend you’re putting in 40 while doing other stuff, that’s fine, but I wanted more connection,” he said.Google declined to comment.To help prevent more people from leaving their jobs because they have not formed in-person bonds, some employers are reconfiguring their corporate cultures and spinning up new positions like “head of remote” to keep employees working well together and feeling motivated. In November, Facebook hired a director of remote work, who is responsible for helping the company adjust to a mostly remote work force.Other companies that quickly shifted to remote work have not been adept at fostering community over video calls, said Jen Rhymer, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford who studies workplaces.“They can’t just say, ‘Oh, be social, go to virtual happy hours,’” Dr. Rhymer said. “That by itself is not going to create a culture of building friendships.”She said companies could help isolated workers feel motivated by embracing socialization, rather than making employees take the initiative. That includes scheduling small group activities, hosting in-person retreats and setting aside time for day-to-day chatter, she said.Employers who never meet their workers in person are also contributing to job hopping by being more willing to let workers go. Sean Pressler, who last year joined Potsandpans.com, an e-commerce website in San Francisco, to make marketing videos, said he was laid off in November without warning.Mr. Pressler, 35, said not physically meeting and getting to know his bosses and peers made him expendable. If he had built in-person relationships, he said, he would have been able to get feedback on his pan videos and riff on ideas with colleagues, and may have even sensed that cutbacks were coming well before he was let go.Instead, he said, “I felt like a name on a spreadsheet. Just someone you could hit delete on.”And his co-workers? “I don’t even know if they know who I was,” he said. More

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    800,000 New Yorkers Just Lost Federal Unemployment Benefits

    Many pandemic-era federal programs expired on Sunday, leaving jobless New Yorkers with more modest state unemployment benefits, or no aid at all.From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City has been pummeled economically unlike any other large American city, as a sustained recovery has failed to take root and hundreds of thousands of workers have yet to find full-time jobs.On Sunday, the city, like other communities nationwide, was hit with another blow: The package of pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits, which has kept families afloat for 17 months, expired.In short order, roughly $463 million in weekly unemployment assistance for New York City residents is ending, threatening to upend the city’s fledgling economic rebound and slashing the only source of income for some to pay rent and buy groceries in a city rife with inequality. About 10 percent of the city’s population, or about 800,000 people, will have federal aid eliminated, though many will continue receiving state benefits.The benefits were the sole income for the many self-employed workers and contract employees whose jobs are central to the city’s economy and vibrancy — taxi drivers, artists and hairdressers, among many others — and who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits. “To just cut people off, it’s ridiculous and it’s unethical and it’s evil,” said Travis Curry, 34, a freelance photographer who will lose all his assistance, about $482 a week. “If we can’t buy food or go to local businesses because we don’t have money to live in New York, how will New York come back?”Federal officials say that more Americans are ready to return to work, and Republican lawmakers and small business owners have blamed the benefits for discouraging people from working at a time when there are a record number of job openings.In recent weeks, President Biden has said that states like New York with high unemployment rates could turn to leftover federal pandemic aid to extend benefits after his administration decided not to ask Congress to authorize an extension. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who last week signed a new moratorium on evictions after the Supreme Court ended federal protections, said the state could not afford to extend the benefits on its own and would need the federal government to provide additional money. A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio did not respond to requests for comment.Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state could not afford to keep financing unemployment assistance without additional federal aid.Stephanie Keith for The New York TimesThe expiring of unemployment benefits ends a period of extraordinary federal intervention to prop up the economy over the past year and a half as the virus has ravaged the country, claiming the lives of 649,000 people and leaving millions of laid-off workers struggling to secure new jobs. .css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}The federal programs supplemented standard and far more modest state unemployment benefits. New York City was the first major city in the United States to be hit hard by the pandemic, decimating industries almost overnight that underpinned the city’s economy, from tourism to hospitality to office buildings. Economists have projected that New York City may not fully regain all its pandemic job losses until 2024.The federal assistance provided new streams of financial aid beyond regular unemployment payments, which are distributed by states. Jobless Americans received a $600 per week supplement, which was later reduced under Mr. Biden to $300 per week. Unemployment benefits were also offered to contract workers and the self-employed, who under normal circumstances do not qualify for assistance. Payments were extended beyond the 26 weeks offered by most states.The end of the $300 federal supplement means those who still qualify for regular benefits through New York State will lose about half of their weekly assistance.Since the jobless programs rolled out in April 2020, New York City residents have collected about $53.5 billion in unemployment aid, primarily among lower-paid workers in the service, hospitality and arts industries, according to a recent report by the economist James Parrott of the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. The recipients also tended to be people of color, who have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s economic and health toll. That includes Ericka Tircio, who lost her job cleaning a 40-story office building in Manhattan’s Financial District in March 2020 and contracted the disease around the same time. She has collected assistance since then, but it will be reduced by about $300 per week. Ms. Tircio, an immigrant from Ecuador who has a 6-year-old son, said her company told her recently that she might be asked to return to work in the coming months.“I’m praying to God that they call me back,” Ms. Tircio, who speaks Spanish, said through a translator. “There are moments when I’ve waited so long that I feel myself falling into a depression.”Ms. Tircio is a member of 32BJ SEIU, a local chapter of the Service Employees International Union, whose president, Kyle Bragg, said thousands of its members had been laid off during the pandemic.“Workers should not be left behind to fend for themselves during the worst crisis in a century,” Mr. Bragg said.In recent months, about half the states elected to end their pandemic-related benefits long before the expiration this weekend, a deadline set by the federal government when a vigorous recovery appeared to be on the horizon. In states led by Republican governors, elected officials said that the assistance stymied economic growth and resulted in labor shortages; however, the job growth in those states has not been substantially different than in states that kept the programs.In New York, business leaders have advocated for the state to end the pandemic unemployment benefits, arguing that they hurt small businesses struggling to hire workers. Thomas Grech, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said several job fairs he hosted over the summer were poorly attended.“People were disincentivized to go to work,” Mr. Grech said. “They’re making more money sitting at home. It’s a classic case of good intentions gone bad.”Mr. Grech said that raising wages as a way to lure workers, as some labor economists and advocates have recommended, was unrealistic for some restaurants “unless you want to spend $30 or $40 for a burger.”Elected officials in New York have argued that unemployment benefits helped pump money directly into the economy.“People who receive emergency unemployment assistance are going to turn around and spend that money, and that money is helpful to other people who are also struggling to get things back to normal,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat who represents Lower Manhattan.The expiration of the benefits was supposed to coincide with a grand reopening of sorts for New York, as many companies announced during an early summer dip in virus cases that workers would be called back to the office in September. But the Delta variant has fueled a resurgence of the virus, postponing any hope that Manhattan’s office buildings would soon refill. Months of moderate job gains stalled over the summer and the city’s unemployment rate, 10.2 percent, increased slightly in July and is nearly double the national average.Bill Wilkins, who oversees economic development for the Local Development Corporation of East New York in Brooklyn, said unemployment and other benefits helped sustain his neighborhood, which has long suffered from high joblessness. But as the pandemic recedes from its peak, he said it was also “incumbent for individuals to be more self-reliant.”The pandemic exposed the significant skills gap in New York City, he said, resulting in large numbers of unemployed workers who do not qualify for job openings that require a college degree, such as high-paying jobs in the tech sector.“If you want a job right now, you have a job,” Mr. Wilkins said, referring to lower-paying openings at many mom-and-pop shops. “The problem is, is that job a sustainable wage? You want the higher-paying jobs, but you have to have the requisite skills that demand that type of salary.”Alex Weisman, an actor, registered for unemployment benefits for the first time after the pandemic shut down Broadway, where he had been in the ensemble for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” The checks, which ranged from about $800 to $1,100 a week, allowed him to keep paying rent for his apartment in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.When the pandemic shut down Broadway, including “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” it left Alex Weisman, an actor in the show’s ensemble, jobless and reliant on supplemental federal unemployment assistance.Erin Schaff/The New York TimesMr. Weisman, 34, submits audition videos every week, hoping for steady work. Earlier this year, he booked a television job for five weeks, which allowed him to briefly go off unemployment benefits.As his benefits run out, he is considering connecting with a temp agency to find work. The last time he had a job outside acting was as a barista in 2013.“I’m going to have to get an entry-level position somewhere,” Mr. Weisman said. “Because I succeeded in the thing that I trained in and wanted to do, I have absolutely nothing to offer any other industry. It’s scary.”Mohammad Kashem, who worked for nearly two decades as a taxi driver, had similar difficulties switching industries. Before the pandemic, a bank had seized his taxi medallion after he struggled to repay his loans amid a sharp drop in yellow cab ridership. Mr. Kashem, an immigrant from Bangladesh who lives in Brooklyn, worked as a postal carrier during the pandemic but quit after one month, saying he was unaccustomed to delivering mail through rain and snow. His family has been relying on $700 a week in unemployment benefits. He and his wife could not maintain jobs during the pandemic because of health issues, he said, noting that they both contracted the coronavirus and have high blood pressure and diabetes.When the unemployment benefits expire, his wife may try finding a job as a babysitter. Mr. Kashem, 50, has been wracked with anxiety about how he will pay for rent and school supplies for his three children.“I was driving taxi many, many years,” Mr. Kashem said. “I’m not used to another job.” More

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    Prices are Going Up. Will It Last?

    Prices Are Going Up. Will It Last? Jeanna SmialekBreaking down the numbersScott McIntyre for The New York TimesBikes, used cars and televisions are also costlier.They include parts that are made overseas, like computer chips. With factories and shipping routes upended by the pandemic, these components are more expensive. More

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    Unemployment Benefits Expire for Millions Without Pushback From Biden

    The president has encouraged some states to continue helping the long-term unemployed, but administration officials said it was time for enhanced federal aid to end.WASHINGTON — Expanded unemployment benefits that have kept millions of Americans afloat during the pandemic expired on Monday, setting up an abrupt cutoff of assistance to 7.5 million people as the Delta variant rattles the pandemic recovery.The end of the aid came without objection from President Biden and his top economic advisers, who have become caught in a political fight over the benefits and are now banking on other federal help and an autumn pickup in hiring to keep vulnerable families from foreclosure and food lines.The $1.9 trillion economic aid package Mr. Biden signed in March included extended and expanded benefits for unemployed workers, like a $300-per-week federal supplement to state jobless payments, additional weeks of assistance for the long-term unemployed and the extension of a special program to provide benefits to so-called gig workers who traditionally do not qualify for unemployment benefits. The expiration date reached on Monday means that 7.5 million people will lose their benefits entirely and another three million will lose the $300 weekly supplement.Republicans and small business owners have assailed efforts to extend the aid, contending that it has held back the economic recovery and fueled a labor shortage by discouraging people from looking for work. Liberal Democrats and progressive groups have pushed for another round of aid, saying millions of Americans remain vulnerable and in need of help.Mr. Biden and his advisers have pointedly refused to call on Congress to extend the benefits further, a decision that reflects the prevailing view of the state of the recovery inside the administration and the president’s desire to focus on winning support for his broader economic agenda.The president’s most senior economic advisers say the economy is in the process of completing a hand off between federal assistance and the labor market. As support from the March stimulus law wanes, they say, more and more Americans are set to return to work, drawing paychecks that will power consumer spending in the place of government aid.And Mr. Biden is pushing Congress this month to pass two measures that constitute a multi-trillion-dollar agenda focused on longer-run economic growth: a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a larger, partisan spending bill with investments in child care, education, carbon reduction and more. That push leaves no political oxygen for an additional short-term aid bill, which White House officials insist the economy does not need.President Biden and his advisers have pointedly refused to call on Congress to extend the benefits further.Oliver Contreras for The New York TimesAdministration officials say money that continues to flow to Americans from the March law, including new monthly payments to parents, will continue to sustain the social safety net even as the expanded federal jobless aid expires. Mr. Biden has called on certain states — those with high unemployment rates and a willingness to continue aid to jobless workers — to use state relief funds from the March law to help the long-term unemployed. So far, no state has said it plans to do so.On Sunday, Mr. Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the March law was also allowing states to help those out of work by offering employment bonuses and job training and counseling..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}“We think the jobs are there,” Mr. Klain said, “and we think the states have the resources they need to move people from unemployment to employment.”Mr. Biden has faced criticism from the left and the right on the issue, and he has responded with a balancing act, supporting the benefits as approved by Congress but declining to push to extend them — or to defend them against attacks by leaders in some states.Throughout the summer, business lobbyists and Republican lawmakers called on the president to cut off the benefits early, blaming them for the difficulties some businesses were facing in hiring workers, particularly in lower-paying industries like hospitality. Soon after the backlash began, Mr. Biden defended the benefits but called on the Labor Department to ensure that unemployed workers who declined job offers would lose their aid.But roughly half of the states, nearly all of them led by Republican governors, moved to cut off benefits early on their own. Mr. Biden and his administration did not fight them, angering progressives. The administration is essentially extending that policy into the fall, by calling on only willing states to fill in for expired assistance.“I don’t think we necessarily need a blanket policy for unemployment benefits at this point around the country,” Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh said in an interview on Friday, “because states are in different places.”Privately, some administration officials have expressed openness to the idea that economic research will eventually show that the benefits had some sort of chilling effect on workers’ decision to take jobs. Critics of the extra unemployment benefits have argued that they are discouraging people from returning to work at a time when there are a record number of job openings and many businesses are struggling to hire.Evidence so far suggests the programs are playing at most a limited role in keeping people out of the work force. States that ended the benefits early, for example, have seen little if any pickup in hiring relative to the rest of the country.Even in the industries that have had the hardest time finding workers, many people don’t expect a sudden surge in job applications once the benefits expire. Other factors — child care challenges, fear of the virus, accumulated savings from previous waves of federal assistance and a broader rethinking of work preferences in the wake of the pandemic — are also playing a role in keeping people out of work.“I think it’s a piece of the puzzle but I don’t think it’s the big piece,” said Ben Fileccia, the director of operations and strategy for the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. “It’s easy to point to, but I don’t think it’s the true reason.”Progressives in and outside of Congress have grown frustrated with the administration’s approach to the benefits, warning it could backfire economically. Job growth slowed in August as the Delta variant spread across the country.“Millions of jobless workers are going to suffer when benefits expire on Monday, and it didn’t need to be this way,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and the chairman of the Finance Committee, said in a news release last week. “It’s clear from the economic and health conditions on the ground that we shouldn’t be cutting off benefits now.”Elizabeth Ananat, a Barnard College economist who has been studying the impact of the pandemic on low-wage workers, said that cutting off benefits now, when the Delta variant has threatened to set back the recovery, was a threat to both workers and the broader economy.“We’ve got this fragile economic recovery and now we’re going to cut income from people who need it, and we are pulling back dollars out of an economy that is still pretty unsteady,” she said.Even in the industries that have had the hardest time finding workers, many people don’t expect a sudden surge in job applications once the benefits expire.Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesMs. Ananat has been tracking a group of about 1,000 low-income parents in Philadelphia, all of whom were working before the pandemic. More than half lost their jobs early in the pandemic last year. By this summer, 72 percent were working, reflecting the strong rebound in the economy as a whole. But that still left 28 percent of the group who were unemployed, either because they could not find work or because of child care or other responsibilities.“We’re going into a new school year where there’s going to be a lot more uncertainty than there was this spring for parents,” Ms. Ananat said. “Employers are again going to be dealing with a situation where they have people who want to work, but what the heck are they supposed to do when their kid gets sent home to quarantine?”Measures of hunger and other hardship have fallen this year, as the job market has improved and federal aid, including the expanded child tax credit, has reached more low-income families. But the cutoff in benefits could change that, Ms. Ananat said. “In the absence of some kind of solution, this cliff comes and that number is going to go back up,” she said. “This is a significant group of people who are going to be in a lot worse shape.” More