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Thursday, January 20, 2022

COVID-19 wellness, health, fears drive Americans away from work, experts say

Millions of Americans have stopped working in the past two years – at least on paper. Despite plentiful employment opportunities, they are only slowly coming back into the labor force. This is due to several factors, including fear of the COVID-19 disease and self-reported health problems. However, a closer examination of the available data reveals that the most prominent factor is the amount of time people trust taxpayer money, a recent report concluded.

“Today’s job market is different from any other market in history,” says the December 8 report. “Never before has America experienced a labor shortage of the magnitude of today, and what is particularly extraordinary is that the current labor shortage still exists with increased unemployment and better compensation packages that propel more workers into jobs.” should do.”

It estimates that through the COVID-19 pandemic, the US has lost about 5 million workers, or about 3 percent of its workforce.

The report was written by Rachel Grezler, Research Fellow in Economics, Budget and Entitlements at the Conservative Heritage Foundation think tank. The current labor shortage is primarily created by the expansion of government benefits in response to COVID, she told The Epoch Times.

“All the money out there has led to an increase in demand and a decrease in the supply of willing workers because the government is paying people for not working,” he said.

The three COVID relief bills, passed in less than the last 2 years, infused nearly $6 trillion into the economy. A substantial portion of that amount has been added to the already strong welfare entitlements.

In addition to the $3,200 total in “incentive” checks, the benefits of food stamps were made more accessible and payments increased by 21 percent. There were about 41 million people on food stamps in September, a 10 percent increase from January 2020. However, total benefits paid out, more than doubled over the same period, from less than $4.5 billion per month to more than $9.2 billion (PDF). ,

Meanwhile, rent assistance programs forced people to stop paying rent for months on end, removing the largest chunk of the cost of living for many. The programs, at least in some localities, are still “widely available,” Grezler said.

Obamacare healthcare benefits were also expanded, removing one of the incentives for many people to get a job – employer-provided health insurance.

“When you add it all up, there’s a lot of stuff available,” Grezler said. “If you were working, you can do just as well or sometimes even better by not working.”

Some of his heritage colleagues calculated in a recent paper that, even before COVID, the average family with two children defined by the government as poor would receive $20,700 in cash, food and housing benefits, another $17,000 in medical care and social services. $5,000 received. one year.

The paper said the Build Back Better Act—proposed by President Joe Biden but recently shelved by Congress—would add another $11,300 in annual gains.

“Build Back Better Bill” stands at the US Capitol on December 14, 2021 in Washington. (Leigh Vogel/Getty Images)

The COVID bill poured hundreds of billions of newly printed dollars into public and even private services. Although very few people were buying transit tickets, transit workers still got paid. Although very few bought plane tickets, airlines still paid their employees. Billions less were paid in taxes, but government employees kept their jobs.

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These are just some of the reasons Americans saved $2.2 trillion more in the pandemic year than before the pandemic.

gray economy

Although most government benefits are reserved for the poor, one does not actually need to be poor to receive them, Grazler acknowledged. The government just needs to look poor. Thus this system encourages people to get maximum of their income from bookkeeping.

Little is known about the extent of America’s gray, off-the-books economy. Policies like Build Back Better, however, would exacerbate this, Grazler argued, not only through expanded welfare, but also by limiting independent work, such as freelancing, contracting and gig jobs, which have really grown in popularity in recent years. have grown. Instead, the proposed policy would prompt companies to use unionized employees.

It is true that union jobs offer more workplace security than non-union and even more so than gig work. But Grezler sees no point in promoting unions at a time when there are 10 million jobs and companies compete for labor.

“I mean, employers are offering workers pet insurance. So we don’t need federal government intervention saying you have to provide X, Y, Z,” she said, “the administration that is pursuing It’s going to be the reverse.”

Yug Times Photos
People who have lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment at an Arkansas Workforce Center on April 6, 2020 in Fayetteville, Ark. (Nick Oxford / Reuters)

He gave the example of Puerto Rico.

“They have, on the books, incredibly strong labor market protections. They would be considered very pro-worker. Well, what happens is that you inflate the cost of employing people so much that employers don’t want to employ people, And then you have a huge underground or gray economy,” she said.

Puerto Rico, officially, has a labor force participation rate of only 40 percent. The American average is about 60 percent.

Grazler pointed out that off-the-book work offers even less security than gig jobs.

“A ton of people will have zero workplace security, they won’t have the wages they could have otherwise, they’re not going to have control over their schedules how they can be, and the government isn’t going to have any.” There is revenue coming from their work because it is not on the books,” she said.

Once a very large part of the economy turns grey, it can create a vicious cycle, she suggested. The government may try to squeeze more taxes out of the visible part of the economy, further adding to the allure of going underground.

other issues

Grezler acknowledged that there are other factors preventing Americans from getting jobs.

Recent surveys show that 30 percent of unemployed people say it’s because of their physical health and 15 percent say it’s because of their mental health, she noted. Also, according to the monthly survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 1.2 million people are not looking for work for some reason, which is related to COVID. However, even with those numbers in mind, government handouts are still the most important factor.

“If there was no money available, the workers would have to go back,” she said.

petr swaby

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Petr Swab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, the economy, education and law enforcement.


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