Report: Coronavirus-Triggered Economic Downturn Unprecedented, Hitting Low-Wage Workers Hard

Apr 2, 2020

The economic downturn being triggered by COVID-19 stands out not only for its speed and scale, but for the kinds of jobs being lost.

That's one conclusion in a new report from the left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy. Report author Sara Austin says that in the Great Recession of a decade ago, the first industry hit was housing.  That, she says, forced layoffs of construction workers who, up until then, had held good-paying jobs:

"Here, the people who are losing their jobs first are service industry folks who typically have less income, less of a cushion,” Austin says.

Many small businesses, she says, have been forced to close as a result of government policies designed to slow the coronavirus outbreak.

The center’s executive director, Garrett Martin, says the stimulus money Washington is sending to help Mainers through the pandemic may not reach everyone who needs it. 

"It reflects, at some level, a challenge to our imagination of how we, for instance, get resources to homeless people,” he says, “how we, for instance, get the people who haven't filed their income taxes in two years, because they didn't make enough to have to file income taxes, but now are going to be challenged to get the support from the direct payments."

The latest figures on first-time claims for unemployment show more than 23,000 Mainers applied for benefits last week. That's a record high number.