February 11, 2021
The Labor Department reports that 20,435,018 Americans were collecting unemployment benefits under state or federal pandemic programs in the week ending Jan. 23, up 2,596,539 from the previous week. First-time claims fell 19,000 to 793,000 in the week ending Feb. 6. That’s a higher level than any single week during the Great Recession or any recession going back to the late 1960s, according to the St. Louis Fed.
To find new jobs, many of those who’ve lost jobs in the pandemic will need to upgrade skills and credentials or retrain for new professions.
And some of that is already happening. The Pew Research Center reports from a recent survey that “two-thirds of unemployed adults said that they’ve seriously considered changing fields or occupations since they’ve been unemployed,” said senior researcher Ruth Igielnik. “Meanwhile, one-third have taken concrete steps to retool their skills by pursuing job retraining programs and educational opportunities.”
But getting all the cogs in the back-to-work machine turning together for the millions of unemployed workers in America won’t be easy.
Case in point: In normal, nonpandemic times, Manny Rodriguez would have 20 to 25 local men and women enrolled in the construction pre-apprentice program he runs in West Chicago through the nonprofit organization he directs, Revolution Workshop.