The COVID-19 Pandemic's Evolving Impacts on the Labor Market: Who's Been Hurt and What We Should Do

Upjohn Institute working paper; 21-341 (2021)

48 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2021

See all articles by Brad Hershbein

Brad Hershbein

W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

Harry J. Holzer

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 15, 2021

Abstract

In this paper, we shed light on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labor market, and how they have evolved over most of the year 2020. Relying primarily on microdata from the CPS and state-level data on virus caseloads, mortality, and policy restrictions, we consider a range of employment outcomes—including permanent layoffs, which generate large and lasting costs—and how these outcomes vary across demographic groups, occupations, and industries over time. We also examine how these employment patterns vary across different states, according to the timing and severity of virus caseloads, deaths, and closure measures. We find that the labor market recovery of the summer and early fall stagnated in late fall and early winter. As noted by others, we find low-wage and minority workers are hardest hit initially, but that recoveries have varied, and not always consistently, between Blacks and Hispanics. Statewide business closures and other restrictions on economic activity reduce employment rates concurrently but do not seem to have lingering effects once relaxed. In contrast, virus deaths—but not caseloads—not only depress current employment but produce accumulating harm. We conclude with policy options for states to repair their labor markets.

Keywords: COVID-19, employment rates, inequality, pandemic recession, recovery

JEL Classification: E62, H12, J15, J21, J68

Suggested Citation

Hershbein, Brad and Holzer, Harry J., The COVID-19 Pandemic's Evolving Impacts on the Labor Market: Who's Been Hurt and What We Should Do (February 15, 2021). Upjohn Institute working paper; 21-341 (2021), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3788395 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3788395

Brad Hershbein (Contact Author)

W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research ( email )

Harry J. Holzer

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI) ( email )

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United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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