The nation’s unemployment rate may continue to decline since its peak in April 2020—when the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic was at its most severe—but there are still many disturbing economic trends that need to be addressed.
Yes, the rate declined to 7.9 percent in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it is certainly true that the current rate is markedly lower than the record 14.7 percent rate recorded in April. But millions of Americans are still living day to day, wondering when they will reclaim a job that will provide them and their families with some measure of relief.
All we have to do is look right here in Massachusetts, home to the Center for National Vesting, to get a sense of how precarious it is for those living throughout the state.
The unemployment rate for Massachusetts fell to 9.6 percent in September following a revision to the August rate at 11.4 percent, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced on Oct. 16.
Still, Massachusetts’s unemployment rate—once the highest in the country a couple of months ago—is still higher than the nation’s rate, and that is troubling considering the strong tech, healthcare, financial and higher education sectors.
So, what’s going on here?
We believe there is a consideration everyone appears to be overlooking: For our economy and nation to revive and thrive, we need to support the employed as well as the unemployed.
Because of the pandemic and technological advances, millions of employed U.S. citizens are struggling for financial survival. The basic problem is that, for many workers, there is no livable wage that allows them to compete with technology for employment. Even after the pandemic ends, this problem will continue to undermine the economy and it will eventually result in total economic collapse as technological advances—especially artificial intelligence— accelerate.
We think there’s a simple solution.
In addition to providing extended unemployment benefits, government must supplement the wages of employed workers by up to $15 per hour. In effect, this would create a livable national minimum wage in excess of $22 per hour. Both can easily be funded by leveraging the market surplus of the U.S. economy, which is currently at least $20 trillion and growing rapidly.