Despite a strong economic recovery from the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than two years later, many Granite Staters face challenges that make affording everyday needs difficult.
- August 30, 2022
- Laura Dresser, Joel Rogers, Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez, and Anna Milewski
In celebration of Wisconsin workers, COWS releases The State of Working Wisconsin 2022 with the most recent data available on wages, jobs, disparities, and unions to build a stronger understanding of what is going on in the state’s labor market.
In 2020 and 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic changed work. Parents and caregivers, mothers especially, racked up hours of unpaid labor caring for kids and overseeing schoolwork while holding down jobs. Essential workers went out to work, patched together child care, and worried about bringing illness home. These frontline workers were newly visible and respected—low-paid grocery clerks alongside higher-status health care professionals.
In March 2020, when the government declared a state of emergency and Vermont shuttered nearly all public spaces, 80,000 Vermonters were suddenly unemployed, many without income. Later, some returned to jobs and offices, but others left the labor force for good.
The slowdown gave many people time to reorder their priorities and recalibrate the balance among work, family, and other pursuits. And a labor shortage strengthened workers’ position to demand better pay and working conditions. Nationally, public support for unions grew. If the power shift is sustained, it will be one good outcome of the pandemic.
The pandemic illuminated problems Vermont already faced: policy gaps that leave families struggling to pay rent and other bills or systemic health inequities, from authorities’ neglect of language differences to the physical effects of generational trauma, that render Vermont’s Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) more vulnerable to illness and death. But the economic crisis caused by the health crisis, and the government’s robust response to it, also offered lessons that, if heeded, can improve Vermonters’ lives during both normal times and emergencies.
Connecticut Voices for Children released a new report, “The State of Working Connecticut,” which outlines the need for progressive budget reform, highlights the depth and scope of the state’s economic problems, and provides policy options to address those problems. The combination of a shrunken economy with a highly inequitable distribution has weakened both the state’s fiscal standing and the standard of living for most families, and Connecticut’s economy is on track to grow slower than the U.S. economy during recovery from the recent recession if the state doesn’t act to ensure this doesn’t happen.