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The US labor market post-COVID: What’s changed, and what hasn’t?
Brookings
2024.03.27
The onset of the COVID pandemic was a severe shock to the U.S. economy. Unemployment reached 14.8% in April 2020, the highest since the government began measuring it in 1948, while the labor force participation rate dropped to 60.1%, the lowest since the 1970s. By 2022, the labor market had rebounded, but inflation was growing at the fastest pace since the mid-1980s. By early 2024, inflation had eased (though it was still above the Fed’s 2% target), and unemployment was back to its pre-COVID level.
What lessons should policymakers take from this unusual period? What caused inflation to spike in the wake of the pandemic and then to subside without an increase in unemployment? What lasting impact, if any, will the pandemic have on U.S. labor markets? How sustained will the work from home trend be?