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Op/ed: Saving Jobs in a Time of Coronavirus

Professor Says as U.S. Workers Lose Hours or Jobs, Government Can Act to Speed Economic Recovery

By Katharine G. Abraham and Susan N. Houseman

Port of Baltimore

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Workers unload a container from a ship at the Port of Baltimore. Economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have already caused one-fifth of U.S. workers to lose work hours or jobs.

With travel grinding to a halt, global supply chains breaking down and consumers trying to avoid stores and restaurants, COVID-19 is causing massive economic disruptions. Already, one-fifth of U.S. workers report losing work or jobs because of the pandemic.

Worker layoffs are seen as unavoidable components of crises, write UMD economics Professor Katharine G. Abraham and Susan N. Houseman, vice president and research director at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, but they can be costly to individuals and can even slow an overall economic recovery.

In an op/ed today in Politico, they offer a potential workaround for layoffs:

Unless a business has been forced to fully close, there’s a way to keep workers on the payroll, ease the pain of a downturn and speed economic recovery. It’s called “work-sharing.” 

This is an idea that other countries have used in past downturns to far greater effect than the United States. State and federal officials should act now to ramp up this option here. Twenty-six states covering about 70% of the U.S. workforce already have formal programs to provide financial help to employers who embrace shared-work policies; those states need to do more to make employers aware of the option. And states that don’t yet have formal shared-work programs can and should put them in place quickly. 

Read the rest in Politico.

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