The 2020 Census report highlights the costs of the pandemic and benefits of early policy safety net measures.
Key takeaways:
- median household income down
- full time earnings up
- stimulus payments and UI very effective at reducing poverty for millions…
The Census report on income, poverty, and health insurance for 2020 provide insights into the effects of the pandemic on earnings and incomes as well as the vital measures put in place to reduce economic insecurity during the steep economic downturn.…
Median household income fell 2.9% as millions lost their jobs and poverty rose by 1.0 percentage point. The losses to income and increases in poverty would have been far worse if not for the rapid and large boosts to vital safety net programs legislated by Congress in 2020.
The stimulus payments moved 11.7 million people out of poverty and unemployment insurance—expanded in 2020—lifted 5.5 million out of poverty in 2020.
Warning on interpreting the full-time earnings data for 2020. We saw the same phenomenon when examining hourly wage data for 2020. There were large changes in who was able to retain full-time employment in 2020 (and who was not).…
Median earnings for full-time workers rose 6.9%. More lower paid workers lost their jobs so the remaining workers are higher paid, on average, leading to a mechanical increase in earnings. This is not an increase in living standards for those working: it’s a quirk of arithmetic.
The number of full-time workers decreased by about 13.7 million, the largest decrease in the history of this series. Because of occupational segregation as well as caregiving demands, women were harder hit in the 2020 downturn and their employment has been slower to recover.
Median men’s earnings for full-time workers rose 5.6% between 2019 and 2020, while median women’s earnings rose 6.5%. This is likely due to the composition of who retained full-time employment as COVID-19 shuttered large swathes of the economy.
This faster increase for women may again be indicative of just who was able to keep their jobs during the pandemic, and the fact that the low-wage workforce who went jobless due to COVID-19 slowdowns in economic activity was disproportionately female.
In 2020, typical full-time women workers were paid just 83.0% of typical full-time men workers, little change from prior years.
The real median earnings of all workers decreased 1.2% between 2019 and 2020, displaying a real divide between full-time workers who were relatively more insulated from the pandemic recession and everyone else who either lost their jobs or lost wages and work hours.
Although labor market earnings are a significant portion of family income for the vast majority of U.S. households, the rise in earnings did not translate into increases in income because of the sheer numbers of workers who lost their jobs.

Median household income fell 2.9%.
Household incomes fell between 2019 and 2020 across all racial and ethnic groups reported. Median household income fell the most for Asian household between 2019 and 2020, a loss of 4.5%. Median Black household incomes fell the least between 2019 and 2020, a drop of 0.3%.
The racial divide between white, non-Hispanic households and Black households remains large. In 2020, Black household income is just 61.2% of white household income.
These persistent racial disparities—deeply rooted in historical and ongoing social and economic injustices—contributed to greater susceptibility to the pandemic and the ensuing recession for Black and Hispanic workers and families.……
Because of the devastation of the labor market at the lower end of the wage distribution, the poverty increases in 2020 were far from unexpected.

Between 2019 and 2020, the official poverty rate rose 1.0 percentage point, an increase of 3.3 million more people living in poverty.
The losses to income and increases in poverty would have been far worse if not for programs such as unemployment insurance to workers who suffered from job loss, as well as the ad hoc expansions to those programs legislated in the wake of COVID-19’s arrival.
While Social Security remains the largest poverty reducer in the U.S.—reducing the number who would have been in poverty in 2020 by 26.5 million—the stimulus payments passed in response to the COVID-19 shock moved 11.7 million people out of poverty.
Expanded unemployment insurance lifted 5.5 million out of poverty in 2020. The expansions of eligibility and enhanced payments in 2020 meant that unemployment insurance reduced poverty for ten times as many people that were kept out of poverty by unemployment insurance in 2019.
Policymakers take note: Without government intervention, the pandemic and ensuing economic shock would have translated into even more widespread devastation and large-scale losses of incomes and a spike in poverty.

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More from @eliselgould

14 Sep
So, are you telling me that poverty went up AND poverty went down between 2019 and 2020? I’ve been asked this more than once since the Census release this morning. And, the answer is yes. Here’s how this is possible.
Let's start with the facts:
- According to the official poverty measure, the official poverty rate in 2020 was 11.4%, up 1.0 percentage point from 2019.
- According to the supplemental poverty measure, the SPM poverty rate in 2020 was 9.1%, down 2.6 percentage point from 2019.
So, what’s the difference? The SPM extends what is included in people’s income such as many government programs that are not included in the official poverty measure. In doing so, the SPM allows us to better analyze the effects of these programs on poverty estimates.
Read 8 tweets
9 Aug
The latest #JOLTS report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a notable uptick in hires and the hires rate, up nearly 700k and 0.4 percentage points between May and June while layoffs continue to trend down. Altogether a promising sign for an economy continuing to recover.
The uptick in the quits rate is notable, likely due in part to increased opportunities for workers to find better job matches, potentially with higher wages or safer working conditions in the lingering pandemic (which had not worsening as much during the June reference period).
Using the last three months of data by sector to smooth data volatility, it's clear that there are still many sectors with more unemployed workers than job openings. To be clear, these comparisons only include those who are in the official measure of unemployment.
Read 6 tweets
4 Jun
Today's jobs report is a promising sign that the recovery is on track. The labor market added 559,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate fell to 5.8%.

+559k jobs in May is slightly better than the average growth of the prior 3 months. If this pace continues over the next year, we will likely get down to 4% unemployment by mid-2022 and will be fully recovered before the end of 2022, fully absorbing losses plus population growth.
Employment in leisure and hospitality continues to record strong improvements, gaining 292k in May on top of 328k in April, and 227k in March.

Read 12 tweets
2 Jun
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated underlying disparities in the health and economic wellbeing of people across the country. Segregated cities and neighborhoods have devastated many—disproportionately Black and Hispanic communities—others less so.
Some families have seen multiple family members and friends become seriously ill or lose their jobs, while others have come away relatively unscathed (and in some cases, prospered).
See @LarryMishel+@joriskywalker's latest on the growth in CEO pay:…
Millions of workers have risked their health and the health of their families by going to work in-person, while others have been able to work from home and don’t regularly encounter those facing the pandemic’s wrath.
Read 20 tweets
2 Jun
New paper alert from @EconomicPolicy using the latest CPS data on telework, co-authored w/ @joriskywalker.

As of April 2021, only 1 in 5 workers (18.3%) worked from home due to COVID. Black and Hispanic workers are less likely to be able to telework.
At the beginning of the pandemic, @hshierholz and I showed that not everybody can work from home, with the ability to telework differing enormously by race and ethnicity.…
When we look over the pandemic yea, large disparities remain: only one in six Hispanic workers (15.2%) and one in five Black workers (20.4%) are able to telework due to COVID, contrasted with one in four white workers (25.9%) and two in five AAPI workers (39.2%).
3/n Image
Read 6 tweets
9 Dec 20
Today's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report says "little changed" 16 times. This is not a labor market speeding towards recovery.…
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey continues to show weaker levels of hires than before the recession hit.
Any hope for a quick recovery is off the table unless Congress acts now.…
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of the middle of November, the economy was still 9.8 million jobs below where it was in February and job growth slowed considerably in November.…
Read 10 tweets

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