Playing politics with unemployment numbers: Not good form

coronavirus politics

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News involving millions of people being out of work probably shouldn’t be cause for making political hay.

“In two months, almost a decade’s worth of job growth has been wiped out, the unemployment rate has more than quadrupled, and more than 75,000 Americans have died because President Trump did not take seriously multiple early warnings about the global threat of the coronavirus and failed to lead a competent fight against it. This is President Trump’s economic legacy — cracks in the economy as a result of his trade wars and tax cuts have now split wide open as a result of his ignorance and incompetence,” Congressman Don Beyer, D-Va., said this morning.

Picking on Beyer here because his office was quick to put out a press release on this morning’s unemployment numbers for April, which predictably are not good.

The unemployment rate, we’re told, is at 14.7 percent, and we know that number doesn’t account for the additional 3.3 million people who filed unemployment claims this week.

Yeah, yikes.

Beyer would be awarded a debating point if the U.S. economy was really the only one on the planet impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns.

It’s not.

Just to our north, Canada is reporting a 13 percent unemployment rate, its highest since the 1982 global recession.

Ireland is at 28.2 percent. Other EU economies are staying in the single digits, but there’s a bit of accounting chicanery going on there.

In Germany, for instance, the number of applications for what is called “short-time work” was at 10.1 million at the end of April.

Short-time work is a form of state aid that allows employers to switch employees to shorter working hours during an economic downturn to keep them on the payroll.

For comparison, at the height of the 2008-2009 recession, there were 1.4 million applications for short-time work on record there.

Short-time work programs are also benefitting 11.3 million workers in France, 7.7 million in Italy, 3.4 million in Spain.

How different this short-term work program is from our CARES Act $600 weekly stipends for those who have been laid off due to the lockdowns is a matter of semantics.

That CARES Act is a good example of how leaders on both sides of the aisle can work together to get things to where they need to be.

We could use more of that, and less of the wild applause at how bad things are, as we figure out how we can get America safely back to work.

Story by Chris Graham


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