Economics in Brief: Unemployment Is Back to August 2020 Levels

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Economics in Brief: Unemployment Is Back to August 2020 Levels

Also: Illinois could end cash bail, and Compton, California, rolls out a basic income program.

(Photo by Rachel / CC BY-NC 2.0)

Unemployment Is Back to August 2020 Levels

New unemployment claims filed last week increased to 965,000, the highest number since August, the Washington Post reports. Add in people receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the insurance for gig workers, and unemployment claims topped 1.2 million.

According to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, this week’s data is “messy” — President Trump did not sign a bill expanding unemployment benefits until a day after benefits expired, leading to confusion and some people needing to re-apply for benefits — but EPI’s read of the data is that layoffs are increasing as states roll back reopening plans.

Last week, CNN reported that, according to federal data, of the 140,000 jobs lost in December, women — and primarily women of color — accounted for every single job lost.

Illinois Could End Cash Bail

The Illinois General Assembly passed a criminal justice bill that would end cash bail across the state, NPR Illinois reports. Gov. JB Pritzker has indicated he will sign.

Cash bail disproportionately penalizes people who are too poor to pay, and 95 percent of jail growth since 2000 is attributed to an increase in pretrial detainees, Next City reported in 2016.

Moreover, studies have reported no direct relationship between a defendant’s ability to post bail and the reliability of them returning to court, nor does a defendant’s ability to pay reflect their danger to the community. “There’s no correlation between your dangerousness and your wealth,” Joseph E. Krakora, New Jersey’s public defender, said in an article published by the philanthropy Arnold Ventures, after New Jersey radically reformed cash bail, removing its use in most cases. “You could be a serial killer and a billionaire at the same time; they’re not mutually exclusive.”

A study in Washington, D.C., a city that effectively eliminated cash bail in the 1990s, found exactly that: the rate at which defendants appeared in court after cash bail was eliminated was the same or better than before the reforms took effect, and their rates of re-arrest were the same or lower.

Compton, California Rolls Out Basic Income Program

A pilot program in Compton started last month that will eventually provide $1,000 per month to hundreds of families, KCRW reports.

The families will be randomly selected from a list of low-income residents, the station said.

“Guaranteed income is really about dignity, and that regardless of circumstances, that all people deserve to live a life free of terror from not having the basic necessities,” says Compton Mayor Aja Brown.

“There’s empirical data from other guaranteed income pilots across the nation over the last two years that really underscores that people are making the smart decisions and the best decisions for their family with this additional income.”

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi.

Tags: covid-19complete streetsuniversal basic incomeunemploymentbail

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