Nearly half of American households have lost employment income during pandemic

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Nearly half of Americans say in a new survey that they or someone in their household has lost employment income because of the coronavirus pandemic, a devastating loss that has fallen most heavily on lower income workers.

The Census Bureau’s survey, meant to track the pandemic’s impact on Americans, shows 47.5 percent of all households reporting job losses.

More than half of households with incomes under $50,000 say they have seen their incomes slide, as have more than half of households in which no one has attained a bachelor’s degree.

Households headed by people under the age of 55 were more likely than not to have lost income, and almost twice as many people between the ages of 18 and 24 said they had lost income. Both African American and Hispanic households were more likely than not to lose income, the report found.

About 43 percent of non-Hispanic white households said they had lost income, while job losses were far less likely among older people, those with a bachelor’s degree and those in higher income brackets.

Ten percent of Americans said they had been unable to pay rent or their mortgages on time, and one-fifth of those who responded said they had little or no confidence they would be able to pay next month’s rent or mortgage.

The losses are being felt most acutely in states that heavily depend on tourism and in states where the pandemic struck first. Though Hawaii has reported few cases of the virus, 59 percent of residents say they have lost income. In Nevada, which experienced an early outbreak and shuttered its iconic casinos, 56 percent said the same.

More than half of households in New Jersey, Louisiana, Michigan and New York — all early epicenters of confirmed coronavirus cases — said they had lost income. More than half of households in California and Oregon reported job losses, too. Both of those states acted earlier than others to lock down their economies to halt the spread of the virus.

By contrast, residents of some of the most rural states, where the coronavirus is only now beginning to break out, were least likely to say they had lost out on income — but the number of those households that had lost income is still staggeringly high. More than a third of residents in Wyoming, Kansas, Idaho, Montana and Arkansas said they had lost wages.

The jurisdiction where households were least likely to have lost income is Washington, D.C., a city with a highly educated population and where the dominant industry, the federal government, has faced virtually no layoffs. Still, one-third of all District residents surveyed reported losing income.

The stress of the pandemic is becoming more apparent, too. Almost 30 percent of respondents in the new survey said they had felt anxious or nervous more than half the days last week. About one in six reported feeling down most of last week, and more than a fifth said they took little interest or pleasure in doing things.

A separate survey of small businesses found more than half had experienced significant negative effects from the coronavirus pandemic, including more than 4 in 5 restaurant and accommodation businesses and three-quarters of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses.

The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, conducted in conjunction with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Health Statistics, the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Center for Education Statistics surveyed 74,413 people in the last week.


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