When the pandemic first hit the United States, we lost 22 million jobs almost immediately. Then after seven months of gains — albeit decelerating ones — the economy tipped back into job losses in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. Employers eliminated 140,000 jobs on net; the industry with the biggest losses was leisure and hospitality (President Trump’s own sector); it lost nearly half a million jobs last month alone. Since February, employment in the industry is down by about a quarter.
A separate survey of workers found that 6.7 percent of workers remain officially unemployed. A broader measure of underemployment — including those who can’t find jobs, can’t find enough hours or have become discouraged and given up applying for work entirely — stands at 11.7 percent.
Trump is not responsible for a global pandemic or the economic crisis it caused. As I’ve said ad nauseam, presidents get too much credit when the economy is good and too much blame when it is bad; they can affect things only on the margin. That said, a number of his administration’s decisions made things worse on the margin.
That includes discouraging Americans from taking simple precautions (such as mask-wearing) that reduce the spread of the virus, whose latest wave is undoubtedly the reason for the service industry’s significant losses.