COVID-19 unemployment may be underestimated

AMES, Iowa -- Unemployment caused by COVID-19 may be underestimated.

Iowa State University researchers say there a number of people who lost work because of the virus is who aren't showing up in official unemployment rates.

"Some people are trying to avoid getting sick, or getting their co-workers or family members sick, and that's pushing some people out the labor force. We're seeing a really high rate of people not officially classified as unemployed because they're not looking for work, buy they've stopped working" says ISU Economics professor John Winters.

He says their study also shows many groups of people hit hard by pandemic job losses include young workers between the ages of 16 and 24, as well as Black and Latino workers.

"They had much higher rates of unemployment than white workers. Also, less educated workers had much larger unemployment losses than more educated workers" Winters says.

He says they also found larger urban areas hit hard by COVID-19 also had highest rates of unemployment.

"The larger the area, the more populous and denser the area, the worse the employment loss is. About half of that is attributable to the higher virus infection rates that we're observing" Winters says.

He says accurately identifying the groups most severely affected by COVID-19 unemployment is key to creating future policy.

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