Obviously we are all focused on the election and its consequences, and so we’ll be keeping this short and to the point. But it’s important to keep in mind that the number of coronavirus infections are on the rise both here in Washington State and around the nation, which also means the economic picture is about to get even more dire — even with the welcome news of an effective vaccine.
The economy simply can’t enter a real recovery until we secure a meaningful pandemic response, and the American people can’t be expected to make it through the economic turbulence that is sure to come without a bold stimulus plan.
We here in Washington can’t wait for a divided government in the other Washington to act. Our local leaders have to step up to this challenge.
Here’s what we are watching this week:
- The latest numbers on the scope of the economic crisis
- The local reaction to the economic crisis
- The public response as measured by public opinion research
I’ll continue to share what we are thinking, reading, and talking about in short, occasional updates like this.
The regional economic update is from Zach Silk of Civic Ventures, sent regularly each week and posted with permission. You can find more content by the team at Civic Ventures at their blog, Civic Skunkworks.
The Latest on the Impacts of Covid-19
Washington unemployment insurance claims during the week of October 25-31:
- 14,681 Washington workers filed new regular unemployment insurance claims.
- 9,753 workers filed new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims.
- 2,667,524 initial claims have been filed since the start of the pandemic from 1,410,527 unique individuals.
Washington has paid a total of $12 billion in UI benefits since March while initial regular unemployment claims in Washington remain 113 percent higher than last year’s weekly new claims.
Nationally, another 1.1 million Americans filed new unemployment insurance claims last week. That’s 751,000 new regular unemployment claims and 362,883 new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims. For reference, the peak of weekly jobless claims during the Great Recession was in March of 2009, when numbers topped out at 674,000.
- This marks 32 consecutive weeks where new single-week jobless claims were higher than any week during the Great Recession.
- Some 21.5 million Americans are receiving unemployment insurance.
Exit polls found that American voters considered the economy to be the most important issue of the election: “About 35% of voters said the economy was the most important issue for them, while about 17% cited the pandemic and roughly 2 in 10 were motivated most by racial inequality.” Just over half of all respondents said “it is more important to contain the virus, even if that hurts the economy,” with about 40 percent of respondents saying the economy should be saved regardless of the human cost of allowing the virus to spread unchecked.
Jerome Powell, the chair of the Fed, warned in a speech on Thursday that the outlook for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain. Powell spoke of a slowing job market with millions of Americans still out of work, and he argued that an economic recovery is “unlikely until people are confident it’s safe to re-engage in a broad range of activities” without the threat of coronavirus.
Tuesday’s election saw the passage of many major progressive laws that can serve as models for the rest of the nation:
San Francisco voters approved a tax on CEOs and large businesses in order to provide economic support for people who have been hit hard by the economic downturn.
Colorado voters passed a paid family leave bill that was supported by local small businesses—the first time in American history that a paid family leave law has been passed on a ballot.
Oregon’s Multnomah County approved a small tax on households with annual income of over $250,000 to fund a universal Pre-K program that provides additional support for low-income families.
Arizona voters approved the “Invest in Education Act,” a 3.5% income tax on high earners to fund increased teacher pay.
And even though Florida shocked voters by going decisively for Trump early in the evening on Election Day, Florida voters approved a $15 minimum wage by more than 60 percent, which will benefit some 2.5 million families in the state.
Local Reaction to the Crisis
The Washington State Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that dairy workers should receive overtime pay like most other workers in the state. This is a big deal; last year, Governor Jay Inslee raised the overtime threshold to the highest in the nation, ensuring that hundreds of thousands of hourly and salaried workers are paid time-and-a-half for every minute that they work over 40 hours a week. Washington dairy workers will finally enjoy the worker protections that have been denied to farm workers in nearly every other state in the union. (Farm worker exemptions have their roots in racism and slavery; they were written into the New Deal in order to win support from Dixiecrats.) Read the decision here.
Tough times are ahead for Boeing, writes Jon Talton in the Seattle Times, warning that “consequences to the [local] economy won’t be a ‘turn out the lights’ era — Seattle is much more diversified than the 1970s ‘Boeing Bust’ version — but they will still be serious. And they would add to pandemic-driven troubles in other sectors.”
Real-time Analysis of the Economic Crisis
We are providing regular commentary on our content channels including analysis of the trickle-down policies that fueled the disastrous federal pandemic response, explorations of the system-wide economic fragility that the downturn has exposed, and explanations of policies that will build a stronger and more inclusive economy.
On Facebook Live, Jessyn and I pushed back on the bad narrative emerging on social media that progressive economic values cost Democrats votes in the election, and we highlighted some of the great, forward-thinking economic progress we saw passing by popular acclamation around the country on election night.
Paul writes at Business Insider that even though progressive candidates weren’t universally popular on ballots around the nation this week, progressive policies have enjoyed widespread bipartisan support everywhere in the country.
Jessyn appeared on KUOW to offer post-election analysis, praising progressive advances here in Washington State and reminding Democrats that now that they have solidified control over state government, they “are really going to have to deliver on the economy for Washingtonians.”
While the election has dominated the headlines, the rapid spread of coronavirus will continue to be one of the most pressing issues in states around the nation—probably the world. We’re seeing the most worrying numbers of the pandemic so far, just as the weather forces people to spend time indoors.
While it’s important to celebrate our election victories and grieve our losses and look to a future with vaccines on a distant horizon, it’s also vital that we remind ourselves and our loved ones that this virus hasn’t gone away, and we have to redouble our efforts to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe. Because that’s what good citizens do.
Be kind. Be brave. Stay distant. Mask up.