More than 1 million people filed for unemployment assistance last week according to new figures released today. 709,000 workers requested filled out applications for traditional benefits, and slightly under 300,000 applied for the specially-created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The Department of Labor’s reporting deceptively separates those who apply for standard unemployment benefits from those who apply for PUA.
Similarly, official unemployment statistics only count people who have actively looked for work in the last four weeks. The real unemployment rate, counting those who have given up on the dismal job market, and those who are severely under-employed, is at least double the official number.
Another way to measure the crisis is by looking at a measure called the “employment to population ratio.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of October only 57.4 percent of the population of working age had a job.
The ultra rich, on the other hand, are completely insulated from the crisis. Billionaires in the United States have vastly increased their total accumulated wealth since the pandemic began. And the stock market has staged nearly a full recovery to its pre-crisis peak.
Incoming Biden administration has no solution to crises
The incoming Biden administration has no plan to take the dramatic action needed to address the unemployment crisis. Eviction moratoriums enacted by some states and localities are set to expire in the coming months, leaving tens of millions who have no way of paying rent facing homelessness and housing insecurity. Hundreds of thousands of people affected by climate change-induced natural disasters have no home or job to return to. And as people lose their jobs they also lose their healthcare.
The vast resources that could be used to employ the unemployed are in the hands of a small number of capitalists, who only offer employment based on profitability. For instance, just by seizing the wealth of two men — Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates — every one of the over 20 million people currently on some form of unemployment assistance could be provided with nearly $15,000. The capitalists will not spend their trillions of dollars in cash reserves until they believe it can return a steady rate of profit for them.
Yet those vast resources are exactly what is needed to address the vast needs facing society. Only a socialist program can address the crises we face: cancelling rents and mortgages, providing jobs for everyone or an income guarantee, and guaranteeing healthcare for all.