Ethics & Public Policy Center

We Have a Tough Economic Recovery Ahead — No Matter Who Wins in November

Published in The Washington Post on October 2, 2020


Friday’s employment market report is the last to be released before the election. The decline in the headline unemployment rate, from 8.4 percent to 7.9 percent, is superficially good news for President Trump. But a deeper dive reveals underlying, structural barriers to returning to pre-pandemic levels that will bedevil whoever wins.

The good news is undeniably welcome. More than 660,000 jobs were added last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employer survey. The BLS’s household survey confirms this rise and furthermore shows the employment-population ratio — the share of the working-age people who hold a job — ticked up to 56.6 percent. That’s the highest rate since the pandemic struck in March, up significantly from the all-time low of 51.3 percent recorded in April.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons to believe further improvements will be slow. The labor force participation rate — the share of the working-age population working or looking for work — has barely budged since June. Roughly 4.4 million people have simply stopped looking for work since February. People who aren’t looking for work aren’t counted in the headline unemployment rate. If they were, it would be significantly higher than September’s 7.9 percent.

Click here to read the rest of this piece at the Washington Post’s website.

Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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