The enhanced federal unemployment benefits that have been in place since last year end this weekend. Debb Brunell of Michigan Works! says her organization has yet to see an uptick in people coming into the office to dip their toes back into the labor pool. Brunell says it is not a given that they will ever return. It is beginning to look like the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated demographic trends that were already in place.
In addition to the hole being left by the Baby Boomer generation, Brunell points to the changing habits of men. As manufacturing capacity has closed up for overseas, the share of men in the prime of their life employed full-time is down. For that age group, they never recovered from the recession of 2008-2009. Even for those putting in part-time employment at multiple jobs, the gig economy, the work didn’t pay as well as what they had and they learned to live within a new set of means.
That has led to delayed family formation, fewer kids, and fewer reasons to apply themselves in a full-time capacity. It is a hard cycle to break once it begins. Brunell says the situation isn’t hopeless, but the answer may look much different than what people expect.