I do not think it is particularly surprising to see unemployment soar to historic highs this week. How could it not soar with all these unprecedented happenings?
And yet, like the spread of the coronavirus, soaring unemployment is frightening. The incredible number of 3.3 million people found themselves on the unemployment rolls overnight last week from the…282,000 who entered the week before.
This figure is frightening but not surprising.
I came out of home isolation yesterday to do an errand. I’ve never seen such a thing before.
It was something unprecedented. Although it was 5:00 PM – rush hour – there were few cars on the street.
The main roads were empty.
And of course, they were empty because people aren’t working. Because the shops, all kinds of shops, were closed.
It was a ghost town.
And so, unemployment is soaring. And to these unemployed, others will be added next week. And then more.
Economists believe the unemployment rate in May could reach 13%.
In comparison, during the Great Recession of 2008-09, the unemployment rate in America was 10%.
And in Greece, where it had fallen sharply from its peak during the worst of the economic crisis, it was still 16% before the coronavirus hit.
The American economy – and most likely the global economy – is heading towards record lows.
What will happen? How will the unemployed live?
Congress just passed a $2 trillion rescue package, the largest in history.
Its provisions include measures for the unemployed such as extending unemployment coverage, and more.
The Federal Government will also send $1200 per person to those who need it.
Will this be enough, or will a second package be needed?
On the other hand, in order for the unemployed to return to their jobs, the companies from which they were laid off must reopen.
That is why the package also includes measures in support of businesses.
But is this enough?
For example, how will restaurants open if the social distancing and free movement measures are not lifted, if schools are not opened, if people are not allowed to go on buses, trains, and planes?
Of course, this unprecedented crisis has two components: One is the health of the population and the second is the issue of the economy.
Surely the former takes priority over the latter, for moral and practical reasons.
There is no greater good than health.
So when the Prime Minister of Great Britain and then the President of the United States expressed some thoughts, the essence of which was that a portion of the population – the elderly and others who are also most vulnerable – would have to be sacrificed because “we can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” there was an uproar. And rightly so.
Who will decide who will live and who will die?