More than 100,000 Hoosiers collecting the last weeks of federal pandemic unemployment benefits were supposed to be easing into a recovering economy with better job prospects than any other time during the pandemic.
But as the federal program ended in September, Hoosiers in fact have faced a sluggish economy, another COVID-19 surge and potentially another tough pandemic winter that could kill off more businesses, said Michael Hicks, an economist at Ball State University.
“We no longer have payroll protection, we no longer have the CARES ACT,” he said, referring to financial assistance programs for businesses and workers. “It’s possible that a substantial number of Hoosier businesses will not survive a second COVID-19 year.”
The recovery predicted by legislators was thwarted by the stubborn resistance among huge swaths of Americans to receive vaccines and then exacerbated by a highly infectious variant of COVID-19. From July to August, Indiana lost 4,400 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The recovery is dampened by a disease that’s almost 100% preventable,” Hicks said.
The program began at the start of the pandemic to help millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic, including those who were self employed and not eligible for the state unemployment programs. At its peak, more than half a million Hoosiers were applying for these federal benefits.
They’re now finding themselves in a pandemic job market where job seekers aren’t finding understaffed businesses, economists say.
That’s because child care needs, health concerns, shifting career interests, and changing life priorities are prompting many Hoosiers to reconsider going back to their pre-pandemic jobs, especially if those jobs were low-paid and demanding.
“With pandemic unemployment programs ending, job openings at record highs, but continued headwinds from delta and childcare issues, the economy is in a complex period of transition,” said PNC senior economist Bill Adams in a Thursday report.
The future is uncertain, he said. The optimistic scenario is for workers to find better jobs than those they had pre-pandemic, he said. But the concern is that unemployed workers worried about COVID-19 and child care can’t return to work and will suffer without the pandemic benefits they had been relying on.
Contact IndyStar reporter Binghui Huang at 317-385-1595 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Binghuihuang