The just-released December 2021 jobs numbers — which showed the fewest jobs added during any month of last year — is one of several proof points that illuminate the not-so-great economy we’re in right now. Or, at the very least, one that’s far from normal. Meanwhile, the Omicron Covid variant also continues to rage around the US, exacting a punishing toll on the economy in various ways. Staffing, for example, is a problem everywhere from restaurants to movie theaters and commercial flights. Inflation is also perilously high. And despite it all, no one is getting a new stimulus check from the federal government anytime soon.
Cities issuing stimulus checks and related experiments
The December jobs report we alluded to above showed the economy adding just 199,000 jobs last month. Economists had hoped for a number twice that high. It should be noted that the ADP’s December jobs report showed a little more than 800,000 jobs added last month, which is pretty much the textbook definition of a mixed message here.
As for me, I’m defaulting to what I’m seeing around me with my own eyes. Which, again, is why I say — the numbers can show whatever they show. Things are still absolutely not normal right now. Imagine being an economist and trying to get a precise read on the labor market right now, in light of everything from employees being either permanently or temporarily laid off because of Covid keeping customers home (or maybe the boss just cuts their hours).
Then there’s the so-called Great Resignation, with people deciding they want to do something more meaningful with their lives, amid a pandemic, outside of a job they hate. All these things play out much differently at the local level, depending on where you live. Making it even harder to get a solid read on the US economy as a whole. What’s more? A lot of the jobs data is backward-looking. This makes about as much sense as looking at the medical records from last month for someone who died today — and then convincing yourself this data proves the person in question is quite healthy and alive.
Basic income experiments
We said all that to, again, stress that this is another reason why the picture around stimulus checks and payments will be anything but uniform this year. Since the economic picture is so strikingly different in regions around the country.
In the state of California, for example, a reported 794,000 Golden State Stimulus 2 checks worth a collective $568 million were mailed out to eligible state residents through Dec. 31. Now, just one more batch of the payments is going out. With that final mailout set to wrap up by January 11, according to the state’s Franchise Tax Board.
In other cities, some basic income experiments are also underway. With payments to residents there serving as their own kind of “stimulus,” to boost economic activity.
- The city of Newark, New Jersey, has expanded a UBI program there to 400 residents. Each of the participants will get a total of $12,000 over two years. The participants are low-income and have to prove a hardship of some kind stemming from the Covid pandemic.
- A similar program in Rochester, New York, is giving 175 low-income families $500 payments over 12 months. Then those same monthly payments will go to a different group of 175 families.
- And in Durham, North Carolina, 115 formerly incarcerated residents are getting $500/month payments for a year under the city’s Excel pilot program. The objective? “To evaluate guaranteed income’s effects on recidivism and re-incarceration, employment, economic security, and income volatility,” among other things.