WASHINGTON (AP) — Stark evidence of the damage the resurgent viral outbreak has caused the U.S. economy could come Friday when the government is expected to report that the pace of hiring has slowed significantly after a brief rebound in the spring.
As the coronavirus continues to transform a vast swath of the economy, it’s becoming evident that millions of Americans face the prospect of a permanent job loss that will force some to seek work with new industries or in new occupations. If so, that would lead to a slower recovery in the job market than if restaurants, hotels, bars and retail shops were able to fully reopen and recall all their laid-off employees. Few expect that to happen.
On Friday, economists expect the government to report that employers added 1.6 million jobs in July, according to data provider FactSet, and that the unemployment rate declined from 11.1% to a still-high 10.5%. At any other time, a million or more jobs would constitute an unheard-of increase. But July’s expected gain would fall way short of June’s 4.8 million increase and would signal that hiring has sharply slowed. It would also mean that the economy has regained barely 40% of the jobs that fell to the coronavirus.
The pandemic has lasted far longer than most Americans expected, with likely profound consequences for the economy. Traditional retail stores will probably never regain their pre-pandemic levels of sales or employment as consumers increasingly turn to internet purchases. Online health care will likely eliminate some doctors’ office jobs. And online videoconferencing will replace some portion of business travel. Those changes alone could destroy millions of jobs.
The real estate data firm Zillow said last week that most of its 5,400 employees will now be allowed to work from home indefinitely.
Many companies are giving up and closing their doors. Dunkin’ Donuts said last week that it will close 800 stores this year, about 8% of its total. Lord & Taylor, America’s oldest retailer, and the parent company of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank both said Monday that they would file for bankruptcy protection. Last month, Brooks Brothers, another men’s chain deeply hurt by the decline in formal business clothes, sought bankruptcy protection.
One-third of bars and lounges have permanently closed nationwide, up from about one-quarter in late June, according to the small business data analysis firm Womply. So have one-fifth of restaurants and 12% of retailers.
And a survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in July found that nearly half of those who have lost jobs during the pandemic say those jobs are gone for good. By contrast, in April, 78% had thought their layoffs would prove only temporary.