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COVID-19 job losses beginning to hit white-collar sector hard

covid-19 economy
(© Alexander Borisenko –

Great news! We’re flattening the curve! Only 4.4 million people filed an initial unemployment claim last week, down 810,000 from the more than 5.2 million who had filed the week before.

Thing is, now, we’re getting to that second wave that we’ve been hearing about, only it’s not coming in the fall.

The top-level number is 26 million people who have filed for unemployment over the past five weeks, and now that we’re into the second wave, we’re seeing this move from the front lines – accommodation, food service, retail – to white-collar.

Businesses that had set up employees to work from home at the outset of the COVID-19 lockdowns are now furloughing.

Remember how funny it was to Zoom with your friends from work about how you might need to polish up that old resume just in case?

Yeah, now they’re coming for you.

Governments – federal, state and local – are laying off employees.

Even hospitals and doctors offices are cutting jobs.

One estimate has it that the April jobs report will ultimately show cumulative job losses in the white-collar sector – government jobs, healthcare, lawyers, architects, consultants – to the tune of 3.4 million.

Another 1.5 million jobs are projected to be lost through the end of the month in healthcare, which seems counterintuitive, except when you consider that hospitals aren’t performing elective surgeries and have cut out routine check-ups and screenings due to stringent COVID-19 protocols, and guess how it is that hospitals make more money than God?

The first wave hit accommodation, food service and retail hard – nearly 8 million jobs lost in accommodation and retail, another 5 million in retail.

Unemployment benefits for those sectors, supplemented by the $600 weekly stipend from the CARES Act, which is good through the week of July 31, range from $60 to $378 per week in Virginia, which can actually be sustaining.

Factor in even at the lowest rate, and at least through July 31, you can bring home $660 a week, or what feels like an annualized salary of $34,320.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for those jobs is in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, so, assuming things get back to normal before July 31, you should be doing OK for the duration.

The white-collar jobs that are being lost – not so much, in that respect.

The top line for unemployment plus CARES Act stipends in Virginia comes to $978 per week, an annualized rate of $50,856 a year.

For people in white-collar jobs making six figures, with bills – mortgages, car payments, the rest – appropriate to that level of income, that’s devastating.

But, hey, if you talk out loud about the economy, you’re being selfish, because you’re more worried about whether you can go to your favorite winery on the weekend, or take that cruise for your anniversary, than whether people are living or dying.

Remember when that’s what this was to you?

Hitting close to home now, ain’t it?

Story by Chris Graham