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Where did the missing 3.6 million workers go? How COVID shook up labor market




Where did the missing 3.6 million workers go? How COVID shook up labor market

Ali Caravella’s last day of work as a human-resources executive was on July 31, 2020, when she ­resigned from a job she had once cherished.

She closed her laptop in her home office in Connecticut at 4 p.m., having replied to every e-mail in her inbox, and was struck by the strangeness of the moment.

“I didn’t walk out of a building or pack up my stuff,” the mother of two daughters, ages 5 and 3, told The Post. “I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I went for a walk to reflect and process.”

Caravella, 36, resolved never to work for a large corporation again. Her job had turned into 80-hour work weeks, managing hundreds of layoffs.

She is among the 1.4 million mothers of school-age children who left or were forced to leave careers and jobs during the pandemic.

And like many of them, Caravella isn’t coming back to the workforce — at least not in the same way. Because her husband has a job that can support them both, she decided to start her own freelance business, career-coaching other women. It’s given her more flexibility and time with her children.

The pandemic has forced seismic changes in the labor market, with millions changing jobs. But while the unemployment rate — those actively looking for jobs — has fallen to a low 4.2 percent, the labor participation has fallen, as well.

The national unemployment rate has dropped to a low 4.3%, but the percentage of working-age adults with jobs or looking for jobs hasn’t reached pre-pandemic levels, meaning millions have dropped out of the workforce. In 2019, the participation rate was close to 63.5% — it’s now 61.8%

There are some 3.6 million fewer workers now than there were in February 2020, according to government data. By some measures, the number is much larger and could be 6 million, according to Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi.

The majority of the missing workforce are people 55 and older — some 2.4 million people — who either retired early by choice because they could financially or low-income retirement-age workers who were axed at the start of the outbreak.

COVID-19 nearly doubled the retirement rate for 2020, fueling the largest exit of older workers from the workforce in at least 50 years, according to Siavash Radpour, associate research director of the Retirement Equity Lab at The New School.

There’s also the simple, tragic fact that the pandemic has claimed 800,000 lives — and about half a million of those victims were working-age adults, Zandi estimates.

Mothers burned out

The rest of the missing workforce is a combination of people in two-salary families who decided to make due with one income; those who’ve decided to start their own business or take “gig” employment; and discouraged workers with low incomes.

The US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey also noted on Wednesday that about 4.9 million said they were not working because they were taking care of children who were not in school or day care (Some of these people show up on the unemployment numbers because they are still looking for work.)

Mothers are the second hardest-hit group during the pandemic behind older workers, say economists.

The majority of missing workers are the 2.4 million who are 55 and older and decided by choice or layoff that they would retire early. Only teenagers increased in labor participation, by 0.8%.
The majority of missing workers are the 2.4M who are 55 and older and decided by choice or layoff that they would retire early. Only teenagers increased in labor participation, by 0.8%.

While fathers and mothers of school-age children largely shared child-care duties last year, when “full-on virtual learning kicked in in March 2021, we saw a gap forming with dads going back to work and moms staying home,” according to Misty Heggeness, principal economist at the Census Bureau.

Women’s overall participation in the workforce has slipped to 1980s levels or about 52 percent from more about 60 percent, studies show.

“We found that moms who were in telework jobs were more likely to exit the labor force compared to women without children,” according to Heggeness’ research. “During the last school year, they were multitasking with roles as mothers and employees which left them burned out.”

In September, with the start of the school year, the number of mothers not working rose to 1.4 million from 850,000 in August, Heggeness found.

For Caravella, the ups and downs of her children having to quarantine because they were exposed to another child with COVID was taking a toll.

Part-timers bummed out

Another group “sitting out” are those who worked part-time, low-wage jobs before the pandemic and lived in urban areas, according to an analysis of government data by Radpour.

“These are people who lost their jobs and were at the bottom quantile of wages,” Radpour said. “My guess is that they are discouraged and think they can’t find a job.”

Lower-income workers are less able to uproot their lives and relocate for new jobs, he added, and they may have other constraints, including transportation issues.
“We don’t know if the people who are unemployed now held the types of jobs” that are available now, Radpour said.

That goes a long way toward explaining the abundance of “help wanted” signs in the windows of stores and restaurants, employers known for relying on part-time help.

Not surprisingly, entry-level jobs, including in the hospitality sector, construction, manufacturing and health care, have experienced the highest wage growth over the past 21 months as evidenced by the pay increases for 16- to 24-year-olds. Their wages and salaries have rocketed up by 10 percent compared with a measly 2.1 percent increase for people 55 years and older, according to the wage tracker for the Federal Reserve of Atlanta.

But even higher pay has not been enough to persuade some workers to return to former jobs.

“It bears remembering that we had 21 million people lose their jobs in March and April 2020, and it caused people economic distress and heartbreak and could have done irreparable damage with their employers,” said Bankrate senior economist Mark Hamrick.

Indeed, a good number of people simply switched careers — by choice or not — leaving jobs in high-turnover industries like restaurant work, which has suffered some of the biggest job losses.

senior woman at home
Seventy-eight percent of older workers say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, the highest level since AARP began tracking in 2003.
Getty Images

Older folks shut out

John O’Neil, a former sous chef for celebrity chef David Burke, decided to leave the culinary industry altogether this summer to become a generator technician in Connecticut.

“I had been in the restaurant business for over 20 years as it was just a passion of mine. As with everything in life, we need to change our paths in order to better our quality of life,” he told The Post in July.

Older workers face a set of unique challenges, as well, namely discrimination, according to AARP’s senior policy adviser, Jen Schramm.

While retirements tend to tick up during recessions, this increase is fueled in part by employers wanting to mitigate their risk by culling their older workers, experts say.
“Perceptions of age discrimination has been very high during the pandemic,” Schramm said.

In fact, 78 percent of older workers say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, the highest level since AARP began tracking this question in 2003.

Most older workers who retired over the past two years, whether they pulled high salaries or not, lost their jobs and started unplanned retirements, Radpour said.
Economists don’t expect the number of retirees returning to the workforce to make a meaningful dent in the employee shortage, in part, because pay has not risen for this group.

For discouraged workers, rising salaries may help return them to jobs, as well as the end of COVID federal aid checks that allowed people to go without pay for more than a year.

construction workers
Construction is among the sectors with the highest wage growth over the past 21 months as evidenced by the pay increases for 16- to 24-year-olds.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

As for mothers, some may return to corporate or hourly jobs once their child-care crisis has abated, but others, like Caravella, may never rejoin the corporate world again.
That explains why groups like Path Forward, which help women land jobs after a hiatus, are in more demand now.

In 2019, the nonprofit worked with 27 companies, including Amazon, Walmart and Netflix, to transition 158 women who had taken time out to raise their children to return to the workforce.

This year, some 40 companies, including Intel and Dell signed up for Path Forward’s services, placing some 278 women in corporate jobs, executive director Tami Forman told The Post.

“Employers realize that all of these women got shoved out of the workforce and couldn’t work if their day-care center shut down,” Forman added. “The pandemic has raised the awareness of employers that mothers represent an available talent source that they had been overlooking.”


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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