Last week, the Biden administration took over an economy that has been severely hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic. While unemployment has risen for all types of workers, jobs have recovered slowly but steadily for Americans with some college education, according to Labor Department data. That was true for lower-education workers too, until winter struck.
Standard measures of unemployment don’t capture the full scope of the problem, because they exclude the millions of Americans who are out of work but say they cannot look for a job because of the pandemic.
A better way is to look at the trend among all Americans age 25 or older. In December 2019, 53 percent of these Americans with a high school education or less were employed. By December 2020, that dropped to 48 percent. That means that one out of every 20 has lost employment in the past year. A fifth of those losses occurred in November and December.
These workers tend to be concentrated in the sort of industries that are most directly affected by government restrictions in response to covid-19, such as eating and drinking places, construction and hotels.