In the USA, job vacancy postings are now 21% above their level in January 2020. The employment rate for well-off workers (on the equivalent of £43,000 a year or more) is now only 2% down on January 2020. The Dow Jones share-price index continues to rise, as it has done since a drastic fall bottomed out in late March 2020.
According to Google Mobility reports, US workplace traffic is still down by 28% (more than Germany’s 22%), as many still work from home. But retail traffic is down only 8% on the pre-Covid baseline. The New York Times estimates that businesses are now “mostly open” (though with restrictions and precautions) in all but seven of the USA’s 50 states. Even schools (quicker to reopen than bars, cafés, etc. in Europe, but slower in the USA) are restarting. Michigan, which had a Covid spike between mid-March and mid-April, has infections declining again, and deaths levelling off.
The UK now has a Covid infection rate (proportional to population) one-fifth of the USA, and a death rate one-eighth. So probably in the coming weeks lockdown-easing will continue, infection rates will still subside, and profit rates and job rates will rise.
Many bosses have already had a boom during the pandemic, and some helped by fat government contracts and bail-outs. But in the USA employment rates for the lower-paid (on the equivalent of £19,000 a year or less) are still 30% lower than in January 2020. On the latest figures, around 4.5 million workers in Britain are still on furlough. (There has been no furlough in the USA, only increased unemployment benefits). The furlough scheme, originally due to close on 30 June 2020 but extended five times, is now scheduled to end on 30 September.
Some furloughed workers will get jobs over the coming months. Others will find their bosses closing down or winding down business once the government furlough and other payments end.
Local councils, squeezed by government refusal to make good their extra spending and reduced income in the pandemic, are cutting jobs. Some whole areas of economic life are unlikely to recover soon. Many worse-off workers, on the buses for example, face attacks on pay and conditions as their bosses try to make good their losses in the pandemic.
Around 1.5% of people of working age are suffering from “long covid”, and often with impact on their ability to work, or to do their current job.
Recovery? For some, a boom. For many, poverty.
Public services need to be expanded, not cut, if only to deal with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and build resilience for future Covid surges and future pandemics. Solidarity campaigns in the labour movement for:
• the restoration of cuts made to local government funding since 201
• the NHS workers’ 15% pay rise demand
• bringing social care into the public sector, and care workers onto NHS-level pay and conditions.
After a century and a half of slow decline, average weekly working hours in full-time jobs in Britain have started rising again in recent decades. Some workers are forced into overwork; others make do with part-time jobs with fewer hours than they want.
Solidarity campaigns for the labour movement to demand that jobs are secured by reducing the standard work-week to four days or 32 hours and increasing hourly pay rates correspondingly so there is no loss of pay.
We also argue for the labour movement to be ready to demand further extension of furlough if necessary, plus retraining, on full pay, for workers who want to shift to different jobs. Work or full pay!