Back to Business and (Re)employing Workers? Labor Market Activity During State COVID-19 Reopenings


In the early phases of the COVID-19 epidemic labor markets exhibited considerable churn, which we relate to three primary findings. First, reopening policies generated asymmetrically large increases in reemployment of those out of work, compared to modest decreases in job loss among those employed. Second, most people who were reemployed appear to have returned to their previous employers, but the rate of reemployment decreases with time since job loss. Lastly, the groups that had the highest unemployment rates in April also tended to have the lowest reemployment rates, potentially making churn harmful to people and groups with more and/or longer job losses. Taken together, these estimates suggest that employment relationships are durable in the short run, but raise concerns that employment gains requiring new employment matches may not be as rapid and may be particularly slow for hard-hit groups including Hispanic and Black workers, youngest and oldest workers, and women.

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