Like 102 years ago, this wave of the pandemic will almost certainly disproportionately punish the poor—not only by arresting the long recovery since the Great Recession, but also by specifically targeting industries where workers are most vulnerable and have the least protection.
“One month could wipe out 10 years of progress,” in the fight against inequality, Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said. “A huge service-sector recession is coming, and we’re talking about more than 10 million jobs at risk that are often low-wage, low-benefit, or tip-based.”
Ground zero for the pandemic’s threat to the labor force are the face-to-face services and leisure economy, much of which have been forcibly shut down by governments to prevent the spread of the virus. Online reservations for restaurants in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have declined to zero. The largest hotel in New York City, the Hilton Midtown on Sixth Avenue, is closing its 1,878 rooms indefinitely, for the first time ever. Disneyland is empty, and the casinos that had always lit the Las Vegas strip have gone dark.