Viral Unemployment

The latest unemployment numbers for the US have just come out, and new claims are 281k. [DoL] This is up by 70k compared to last week, something to the tune of a 33% increase. To be fair, this is expected. When you begin shutting down entire sectors of the economy you end up with a bunch of displaced workers.

There was a time, twelve years, three months, and nineteen days ago that I myself was part of a mass layoff. It took about a year but to quote the business “everyone who wanted to return has come back.” As they needed additional people to cover natural attrition they called people and offered them the chance to return. The layoff was effective Jan 1st and I believe the first group came back in early to mid-March. Right about now in relation to the beginning of the year, though it feels quite a bit longer in the moment.

It’s hard to say, amidst the uncertainty, how quickly those jobs are going to come back to the industries affected this time. I have… no good way to speculate on that. If things have settled by “vacation season” then it might not be too bad. For travel, lodging, and food service, anyway. There is a “continued unemployment” metric, but it has an extra week of lag time.

But right now, there are at least 281k people without a job who had one last week. For perspective, Bloomberg says “During the worst week of the Great Recession, the last week of March 2009, claims reached 665,000.” [link] I would like to point out that this “worst week” was around the same time my own employer began bringing people back. Different strokes and all that. On the bright side, we’re not there, so that’s good. I suspect it’s going to stay high for several weeks though. Manufacturing, at least, seems disinclined to slow any more than it must. To their credit, people don’t stop buying entirely and today’s “lean” supply chains try not to hold a lot of extra inventory.

Of course, this isn’t what I intended to write about today, but it’s on my mind and needs processing. I fear it is much more… real… than what I want to write about, but also more important.

As it stands right now, I’m still working in the foreseeable future. Not from home, but in the same environment I share with a couple thousand other people. I do not believe this is a wise choice, but my direct coworker is at greater risk than I am, so here we are. I highly suspect they will end up shutting down entirely, but that’s only because they’ve already done more than I thought they would. At the very least, a week from now when people start popping up symptomatic they won’t be able to locate enough “unexposed” workers to sustain production. A single parts handler could easily expose half a line or more plus all the other parts handlers.

I cannot help but feel that continued production is… irresponsible.

Time will tell, I suppose. I’ll be back tomorrow(ish) with something research-related, and I’ve got some actual gaming-related stuff in the works too.

Y’all take care and stay safe out there.

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