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    The New Jobs Report Numbers Are Pretty Good, Actually

    They fell far short of analyst expectations, but they reflect a steady expansion that is more rapid than other recent recoveries.It’s not as bad as it looks.That’s the most important thing to take away from Friday’s release of the September jobs report, which found that employers added 194,000 jobs last month, a far cry from the 500,000 analysts expected. The initial response among experts was to wonder whether it called for an exclamation of a mere “oof” or a more extreme “ooooooof.”But when you peel apart the details, there is less reason to be concerned than that headline would suggest. The story of the economy in the second half of 2021 remains one of steady expansion that is more rapid than other recent recoveries. It is being held back by supply constraints and, in September at least, the emergence of the Delta variant. But the direction is clear, consistent and positive.Much of the disappointment in payroll growth came from strange statistical quirks around school reopening. The number of jobs in state local education combined with private education fell by 180,000 in September — when the customary seasonal adjustments are applied.There is reason to think the pandemic made those seasonal adjustments misleading. Schools reopened in September en masse, and employed 1.28 million more people (excluding seasonal adjustments) in September than in August. But a “normal” year, whatever that means anymore, would have featured an even bigger surge in employment. In other words, this might be a statistical artifact of a shrinking education sector earlier in the pandemic, not new information about what is happening this fall.Or as the Bureau of Labor Statistics put it in its release, “Recent employment changes are challenging to interpret, as pandemic-related staffing fluctuations in public and private education have distorted the normal seasonal hiring and layoff patterns,” which is the government statistical agency equivalent of a shrug emoji.Another detail in the report that takes some of the sting out of the weak payroll gains was news that July and August numbers were revised up by a combined 169,000 jobs, implying the economy entered the fall in a stronger place than it had seemed.Meanwhile, the focus on the underwhelming job growth numbers has masked what should be viewed as unambiguously good news.The unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent, from 5.2 percent in August. It fell for good reasons, not bad — the number of people unemployed dropped by a whopping 710,000 while the number of people working rose by a robust 526,000. (These numbers are based on a survey of households, in contrast with the payroll numbers that are based on a survey of businesses; the two diverge from time to time, including this month.)This represents a remarkably speedy recovery in the labor market — attaining sub-5 percent unemployment a mere 17 months after the end of the deepest recession in modern times. By contrast, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the jobless rate did not reach 4.8 percent until January 2016, six and a half years after the technical end of that recession.Part of it is the unusual nature of a pandemic-induced recession and part of it is the highly aggressive response of fiscal policymakers to the crisis. But the result is that jobs are abundant and most people who want to work can.And while participation in the labor force remains well below prepandemic levels and has lots of room for improvement, it is not as bad as it was in that last expansion.In September, for example, the share of people 25 to 54 who were in the labor force — that is, either working or looking for work — was 81.7 percent. That is still well below 83.1 percent before the pandemic, but considerably better than the 81 percent achieved in January 2016, the point in the last expansion when the unemployment rate got this low.Labor force participation remains the Achilles’ heel of this recovery. Many Americans who have dropped out of the work force — because of whatever mix of burnout, challenges with child care, or ability to live on pent-up savings or government benefits — are not yet back in action.Notably, even as expanded unemployment insurance benefits expired in early September, there was no surge in participation in the labor force. The labor force participation rate for all adults fell by 0.1 of a percentage point, to 61.6 percent. That suggests that the end of extra-generous job benefits may not be the solution to labor shortage woes that many business groups have argued it would be.Low rates of labor force participation and the weaker-than-expected job growth numbers are most likely two parts of the same story. Businesses want to hire and expand, and labor shortages are real. But there are fewer workers available to be hired right now than there were before the pandemic.That makes for good opportunities for Americans who do want to work. It is reflected in higher pay — average hourly earnings in the private sector were up 4.6 percent in September from a year ago. But it is also acting as a constraint on just how fast this recovery can go. More

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    Poverty in U.S. Declined Thanks to Government Aid, Census Report Shows

    When government benefits are taken into account, a smaller share of the population was living in poverty in 2020 even as the pandemic eliminated millions of jobs.The share of people living in poverty in the United States fell to a record low last year as an enormous government relief effort helped offset the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression.In the latest and most conclusive evidence that poverty fell because of the aid, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday that 9.1 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line last year, down from 11.8 percent in 2019. That figure — the lowest since records began in 1967, according to calculations from researchers at Columbia University — is based on a measure that accounts for the impact of government programs. The official measure of poverty, which leaves out some major aid programs, rose to 11.4 percent of the population.The new data will almost surely feed into a debate in Washington about efforts by President Biden and congressional leaders to enact a more lasting expansion of the safety net that would extend well beyond the pandemic. Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan, which is still taking shape, could include paid family and medical leave, government-supported child care and a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit.Liberals cited the success of relief programs, which were also highlighted in an Agriculture Department report last week that showed that hunger did not rise in 2020, to argue that such policies ought to be expanded. But conservatives argue that higher federal spending is not needed and would increase the federal debt while discouraging people from working.The fact that poverty did not rise more during an enormous economic disruption reflects the equally enormous response. Congress expanded unemployment benefits and food aid, doled out hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses and sent direct checks to most Americans. The Census Bureau estimated that the direct checks alone lifted 11.7 million people out of poverty last year; unemployment benefits and nutrition assistance prevented an additional 10.3 million people from falling into poverty, according to an analysis of the data by The New York Times.“It all points toward the historic income support that was delivered in response to the pandemic and how successful it was at blunting what could have been a historic rise in poverty,” said Christopher Wimer, a co-director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at the Columbia University School of Social Work. “I imagine the momentum from 2020 will continue into 2021.”Poverty rose much more after the previous recession, peaking at 16.1 percent in 2011, by the measure that takes fuller account of government assistance, and improving only slowly after that. Many economists have argued that the federal government did not do enough back then and pulled back aid too quickly.Despite the more aggressive response this time, however, median household income last year fell 2.9 percent, adjusted for inflation, to about $68,000. That figure includes unemployment benefits but not stimulus checks or noncash benefits such as food stamps. The decline reflects the pandemic’s toll on jobs: About 13.7 million fewer people worked full time year-round compared with 2019. 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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    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

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    Wage gains remained strong in August as hiring slowed.

    Wages continued to grow briskly in August even as hiring decelerated, a surprising development that economists said was probably driven partly by continuing demand for workers in spite of coronavirus outbreaks caused by the Delta variant.Average hourly earnings climbed by 0.6 percent from July to August, more than the 0.3 percent that economists in a Bloomberg survey had forecast. Over the past year, they were up 4.3 percent, exceeding the expected 3.9 percent.Leisure and hospitality wages are well outpacing overall wages.Percent change in earnings for non-managers since January 2019 More

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    Unemployment Benefits to Millions Are About to End

    The abrupt loss of pandemic unemployment benefits on a broad scale could have long-term effects not only for the recipients but also for the economy.PHILADELPHIA — Tara Harrison has a master’s degree, yet is applying for the low-paying receptionist jobs she last held as a teenager. Evan Ocheret is considering giving up his career in music. Amanda McCarty is worried about losing her place in the middle class. Amanda Rinehart is considering borrowing money from her grandmother or selling blood plasma to feed herself and her son.Unemployment benefits have helped stave off financial ruin for millions of laid-off workers over the last year and a half. After this week, that lifeline will snap: An estimated 7.5 million people will lose their benefits when federally funded emergency unemployment programs end. Millions more will see their checks cut by $300 a week.The cutoff is the latest and arguably the largest of the benefit “cliffs” that jobless workers have faced during the pandemic. Last summer, the government ended a $600 weekly supplement that workers received early in the crisis, but other programs remained in place. In December, benefits briefly lapsed for millions of workers, but Congress quickly restored them.This time, no similar rescue appears likely. President Biden has encouraged states with high unemployment rates to use existing federal funds to extend benefits, but few appear likely to do so. And administration officials have said repeatedly that they will not seek a congressional extension of the benefits.The politics of this cliff are different in part because it affects primarily Democratic-leaning states. Roughly half of states, nearly all of them with Republican governors, have already ended some or all of the federal benefits on the grounds that they were discouraging people from returning to work. So far, there is little evidence they were right: States that cut off benefits have experienced job growth this summer that was little different from that in states that retained the programs.In the states that kept the benefits, the cutoff will mean the loss of billions of dollars a week in aid when the pandemic is resurgent and the economic recovery is showing signs of fragility. And for workers and their families, it will mean losing their only source of income as other pandemic programs, such as the federal eviction moratorium, are ending. Even under the most optimistic forecasts, it will take months for everyone losing aid to find a job, with potentially long-term consequences for both workers and the economy.“I have no idea what I’m going to do once these benefits stop,” Ms. Rinehart said.When the pandemic began, Ms. Rinehart, 33, was an assistant general manager at a hotel in Allentown, Pa. She held on to her job at first, taking her young son with her to work. But when that proved untenable, she left the job, and has been unemployed ever since, most recently living on about $560 a week in benefits, all of which will end this weekend.A single mother, Ms. Rinehart has been unwilling to send her son, now 8, back to the classroom because he has asthma and several other health conditions that make him especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. He is too young to be vaccinated and too young to be left alone, and she has been unable to find a job that would let her work from home.“They should not cut these benefits off until there is a vaccine for all the little humans of all ages, because there are parents like me that have children that are high risk for Covid,” she said.Ms. Rinehart is one of nearly half a million Pennsylvanians who will lose their benefits this weekend, according to estimates from the Century Foundation, a progressive research institute. The state has an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, well above the national rate of 5.4 percent.Pennsylvania, like the country as a whole, has experienced a significant economic rebound, but a partial one: Domestic tourists this summer again lined up to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and thrill-seekers again rode the roller coasters at Hersheypark. But many downtown offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh remain all but empty, and conventioneers have not yet returned to conference hotels, or to the restaurants and bars that relied on their business. Overall, Pennsylvania has regained about two-thirds of the jobs lost in the pandemic, compared with about three-quarters nationally.“There’s been a partial recovery in a lot of the industries that are shut down, but it’s not back to where it was,” said Barney Oursler, director of the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee, a workers’ rights group in Pittsburgh. The committee was formed in the 1980s in response to layoffs in the steel industry; it has had a second life in the pandemic, helping thousands of Pennsylvanians navigate the state’s unemployment system.Mr. Ocheret, 32, is a professional oboist in Philadelphia. Before the pandemic, he cobbled together a living as a freelancer, performing with symphonies and opera companies up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and picking up the occasional gig with pop artists who wanted onstage orchestra sections. It all dried up almost overnight in March 2020.Performances began to return this spring, and Mr. Ocheret recently picked up a once-a-week gig that will last into September with an orchestra in New Jersey. But his calendar remains sparse this fall, and without unemployment benefits to fall back on, he isn’t sure how he will get by. He has signed up for computer coding courses to give him another option — one that he doesn’t want to take, but that he says he may have to consider if the industry doesn’t rebound by the end of the year.“I hate to stop doing the thing I love,” Mr. Ocheret said. “But if things don’t start to improve, I may have to do something different.”Before the pandemic, Evan Ocheret, a professional oboist in Philadelphia, made a living as a freelancer.Hannah Yoon for The New York TimesThree federal programs will end this weekend. One, which extended regular benefits beyond the 26 weeks offered in most states, covers about 3.3 million people, according to the Century Foundation. A second program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, covers 4.2 million gig workers, the self-employed and others who don’t qualify for standard benefits. Nearly three million additional people will lose a $300 weekly federal supplement to other unemployment benefits.When Congress last renewed the programs in March, as part of Mr. Biden’s American Rescue Plan, policymakers hoped that September would represent a return to normal for the economy. If most Americans were vaccinated and the pandemic was under control, then schools and offices could reopen and people could return to work.But the rise of the Delta variant has complicated that picture. Major employers across the country have shelved their return-to-office plans. International tourism remains largely shut down, and restaurants, which were packed for much of the summer, are seeing reservations slow.“We’re in a different place now than we thought we were going to be,” Ms. McCarty said. “The Sept. 6 deadline made sense maybe in May and June. It seems preposterous now.”Ms. McCarty, 43, was furloughed as a buyer for a large Philadelphia clothing retailer at the start of the pandemic. A few months later, the job loss turned permanent, reshaping the McCartys’ lives.The family moved from Philadelphia to Lancaster County in search of cheaper housing. Ms. McCarty’s husband, a graphic designer, earns enough to pay rent, but they are still figuring out how to cover their other bills without the roughly $900 a week they were getting in unemployment benefits. Their 19-year-old daughter has set aside her college plans. And Ms. McCarty, a cancer survivor, is putting off medical tests until she can afford to pay the deductible on her insurance plan.“You put 10, 15, 20 years into a career and then to suddenly not be able to go see a dentist anymore, it feels like something’s wrong there,” she said. “I think I’m still grieving the loss of my opportunity of being middle class, because that’s gone again.”Regular unemployment benefits, without the $300 add-on, replace only a fraction of workers’ lost wages. In Pennsylvania, the maximum benefit is $580 a week, the equivalent of about $30,000 a year. In some Southern states, the maximum benefit is less than $300 a week.Still, decades of economic research have shown that unemployment benefits are at least a bit of a disincentive to seeking work. When the economy is weak, that negative consequence is offset by the positive impact the benefits have on workers, but many economists argue that it makes sense to ramp down benefits as the economy improves.Cutting off benefits for millions of people all at once, however, is another matter.“Losing a job is something that we know from research is one of the most damaging things to your financial and personal well-being over the long run,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. “We’ve avoided those kinds of long-term impacts to a large part during the pandemic because we’ve been aggressive with our forms of support. Now we’re pulling it back, we’re putting people at risk.”Ms. Harrison, despite her master’s degree, has already lost her job twice since the pandemic began. She was furloughed from her human resources job early on. She eventually found work helping to run a Covid-testing business, but was laid off again in March as the pandemic began to ebb. Now she spends her days scouring job boards and sending applications.“It’s going to end,” she said of the unemployment benefits. “You know it’s going to end. So you can’t just sit around and twiddle your thumbs.”Her husband has diabetes and high blood pressure, and they live with her mother, so Ms. Harrison, 47, is reluctant to return to in-person work until the pandemic is under control. Despite having a master’s degree and senior-level experience, she is applying for positions as a receptionist or an administrative assistant — jobs she last did decades ago.“I spent years in school — I spent money out of my own pocket to better educate myself — so that I would be able to be a good breadwinner and take care of my family,” she said. “Never did I think I would be applying to be somebody’s receptionist. But if somebody called me to be their receptionist, I’m taking it.”Jim Tankersley More

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    Cutting off jobless benefits early may have hurt state economies.

    When states began cutting off federal unemployment benefits this summer, their governors argued that the move would push people to return to work.New research suggests that ending the benefits did indeed lead some people to get jobs, but that far more people did not, leaving them — and perhaps also their states’ economies — worse off.A total of 26 states, all but one with Republican governors, have moved to end the expanded unemployment benefits that have been in place since the pandemic began. Many business owners blame the benefits for discouraging people from returning to work, while supporters argue they have provided a lifeline to people who lost jobs in the pandemic.The extra benefits are set to expire nationwide next month, although President Biden on Thursday encouraged states with high unemployment rates to use separate federal funds to continue the programs.To study the policies’ effect, a team of economists used data from Earnin, a financial services company, to review anonymized banking records from more than 18,000 low-income workers who were receiving unemployment benefits in late April.A Small Rise in EmploymentShare of workers on unemployment in late April who later began working.

    Note: Chart reflects data in 19 states that have cut off benefits, and 23 that have retained them. Source: Earnin via Coombs, et al.By The New York TimesThe researchers found that ending the benefits did have an effect on employment: In states that cut off benefits, about 26 percent of people in the study were working in early August, compared with about 22 percent of people in states that continued the benefits.But far more people did not find jobs. In the 19 states ending the programs for which researchers had data, about two million people lost their benefits entirely, and a million had their payments reduced. Of those, only about 145,000 people found jobs because of the cutoff. (The researchers argue the true number is probably even lower, because the workers they were studying were the people most likely to be severely affected by the loss of income, and therefore may not have been representative of everyone receiving benefits.)A Big Drop in BenefitsShare of workers on unemployment in late April who continued to receive benefits in some form.

    Note: Chart reflects data in 19 states that have cut off benefits, and 23 that have retained them. Source: Earnin via Coombs, et al.By The New York TimesCutting off the benefits left unemployed workers worse off on average. The researchers estimate that workers lost an average of $278 a week in benefits because of the change, and gained just $14 a week in earnings (not $14 an hour, as previously reported here). They compensated by cutting spending by $145 a week — a roughly 20 percent reduction — and thus put less money into their local economies.“The labor market didn’t pop after you kicked these people off,” said Michael Stepner, a University of Toronto economist who was one of the study’s authors. “Most of these people are not finding jobs, and it’s going to take them a long time to get their earnings back.”Less Income, Less SpendingAverage impact of ending federal programs on weekly unemployment benefits, earnings and spending, among people who were on unemployment in late April.

    Notes: Data is as of Aug. 6 and includes 19 states that have cut off benefits. Source: Earnin via Coombs, et al.By The New York TimesThe findings are consistent with other recent research that has found that the extra unemployment benefits have had a measurable but small effect on the number of people working and looking for work. The next piece of evidence will come Friday morning, when the Labor Department will release state-level data on employment in July.Coral Murphy Marcos More