Monday, May 04, 2020

America Hasn't Yet Reckoned With The Consequences Of Mass Unemployment


brucewilds |  People tend to forget or push aside the matter of just how much unemployment cost society. This cost takes many forms. There are economic and social costs in this situation. They include a slew of things from, lower on-the-job training to things such as alienation and lost GDP. This can result in homelessness, depression, and even increase drug or alcohol addiction.

Lurking behind all this is the fact that State governments get the money to pay claims by debiting the employer’s Unemployment Insurance account or by raising the employer’s UI taxes. A deduction in the account balance may also cause a rate increase, this means each claim assessed to an employer’s account can result in a tax rate increase in future years. The cost of an individual claim can be significant but the higher tax rate for a business often has a much greater long-term impact. Many states use a three-year moving period to assign a tax rate and an awarded unemployment claim can affect three years of UI tax rates. This means the average claim can increase an employer’s state tax premium from $4,000 to $7,000 over the course of three years.

These increased UI tax rates will have a huge impact on an employer’s bottom line in the near future and this is something that is not being addressed. Instead, the focus is on unemployment. The situation is considered so significant that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has expanded unemployment benefits to self-employed and part-time workers through Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance, which provides up to 39 weeks of benefits beginning on or after Jan. 27, 2020, and ending on or before Dec. 31, 2020.

To the right is a chart of what was paid out in recently in benefits. In March 2020, 3.89 billion U.S. dollars were paid out in unemployment benefits in the United States. This is an increase from February 2020, when 2.75 billion U.S. dollars were paid in unemployment benefits. This pales next to the more than 50 to 100 billion dollars we should expect to be paid out each month until this abates.

The ramifications resulting from this surge in unemployment have not yet been fully internalized, this is a huge deal. In the blink of an eye, the U.S. economy has wiped out all the job gains since the Great Recession and more. There were already 7.1 million unemployed Americans as of March 13, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. When this figure is combined with the newest job losses, we are looking at more than 33 million unemployed, or a real unemployment rate of 20.6%. This would be the highest level since 1934.