Yesterday, Bloomberg released a piece on the faces of the collapse in the United States. The report describes that since the downturn has started, millions of lives have been affected – but in extremely different ways.
On one side, we have low-wage and middle-class workers that became reliant on food assistance programs and unemployment benefits to secure a minimum level of dignity for themselves. On the other side, we have a small affluent mass who has been largely benefiting from rising home prices, new work-at-home arrangements, and the pleasures of baking bread.
The article tells the stories behind the faces that have become a truthful representation of the struggles that emerged through the course of the year. For millions of jobless Americans unemployment checks already hit the 39-week limit and expired.
Despite a new stimulus package having passed last week, the new $900 billion dollar plan is being held hostage as the President won’t sign it, and politicians are having another impasse over their new demands before releasing the bill.
Even after the President eventually signs it, the money will still be weeks away from people’s reach, which means that many will be left hanging for quite a while, and in the meantime, their food and housing situation will remain uncertain.
The population and our economy are now experiencing a world of low-expectations. The overall economy is leaving the year nearly 5% smaller than it would have been if the crisis hasn’t happened. Only 57% of the population is still employed at this point, which is the lowest level since May 1983, if we don’t count the worse months of this year.
On the flip side of the coin, financial markets have registered considerable gains in the aggregate net worth of wealthy Americans since migration patterns towards suburban areas have increased the value of their properties and made them even wealthier.
Meanwhile, as the well-off set of the population has embraced new ways of working and their own household wealth has substantially grown, for millions the worst is yet to come. In a few days, a patchwork of unemployment benefits, eviction moratoriums, rental assistance, and mortgage forbearance programs that assisted many to make ends meet is scheduled to lapse.
According to the latest projections, 10 million households are at risk of eviction. According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately one in six people have fallen behind in rent payments. Over 4 million have revealed to believe they will be forced out of their homes over the next couple of months. Even employed workers have been experiencing mounting financial troubles.
The data shows that employment income has dropped this year for almost half of those living in households earning less than $100,000 a year. Compared to those who earn over $200,000 a year, the figure is less than one-third. More concerningly, roughly 40% of those earning less than $50,000 a year have disclosed they expect their income to decline in the coming month.
The labor market has been battered by so many rounds of restrictions and every month it passes, it regains fewer jobs than the month before. The November jobs report showed that only 245,000 jobs were added, a disappointing figure compared to the 432,000 jobs economists were expecting. The unemployment rate has fallen a mere 0.2%, sparking concerns amongst experts.
As long as we keep failing to keep the health crisis under control and strict measures continue to be applied to business operations, there will be gradually less jobs to go around next year. That is to say, there isn’t a change of perspective in sight for the millions still unemployed and dealing with food and housing insecurity.
The collapse has laid bare just how unequal our system is. As euphoria on Wall Street sends stock prices to astronomical heights, Main Street remains in crisis, with roughly 8 million Americans joining the ranks of the poor since June. The numbers are even letting some billionaires worried that the enormous inequality may lead to mass conflicts in months ahead. And when even the establishment is showing to afraid that things could suddenly get out of hand is because much more turbulence is about to emerge.