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Unwelcome Signs of the Times

November 16, 2020

The lingering pandemic is having profound negative effects.

Consider how job loss and other financial stresses often affect a person’s ability to pay rent. Despite generous stimulus and government support minimizing the problem for a while, it appears things are starting to get worse.

September data revealed metro areas with the biggest annual increases in non-paying apartment tenants. The biggest jumps were in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. Nationally, the year-over-year change in missing rent payments was 1.5 percent, but it was considerably worse in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Seattle.

What do these areas have in common?

For one, tourism provides many jobs. These places also tend to have above-average costs of living, making standard unemployment benefits unlikely to cover rent.

Another unwelcome sign of the times lies in New York’s Times Square. To most Americans, Times Square is a happy place filled with New Year’s Eve partyers, as well as a major tourist and shopping destination.

The average daily pedestrian count from 2018-20 was 300,00-400,000 people. Currently, about 70,000 people visit daily. That’s not exactly what a recovery looks like.

Lastly, losing a job is usually tolerable in proportion to its duration. A person who finds new employment within a few weeks can often bounce back quickly. Beyond that, it gets tougher.

Long-term unemployment is defined as being jobless more than 26 weeks. As of September, 19 percent of unemployed workers were long-term unemployed. That means they lost their jobs in March or earlier.

That could mean, barring a sudden nationwide hiring surge, the number of long-term unemployed Americans will go much higher in the next few months.

None of this is to say our destiny is sealed. Things could change. COVID-19 has taught us anything can happen, right?

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