Furloughed During a Pandemic: How the Virus Has Caused the Largest Unemployment Spike in U.S. History

By Gary Chapman
gchapman@lc.edu

Due to the stay-at-home orders and voluntary shutdowns, over three million people claimed unemployment for the week of March 21. Over 10 million people claimed unemployment for the month of March, according to the Washington Post.

Most of these people were furloughed, which is different from being laid off. Furloughing means a leave of absence due to the needs of the employer, while a lay off means that your job is terminated. A furlough also means you do not get paid.

When I asked the St. Louis subreddit, some people responded with their thoughts.

Reddit user ihaveacatnamedwally said that it is “Not great. Having a job would be a nice distraction at [a] minimum right now. I have way too much time on my hands to think and worry. Plus financially I’m making peanuts with unemployment, and I won’t see that money for weeks, best case scenario. I work for a smaller business, and I’m hoping I even have a job to come back to after this.”

Another user jayeedoubleeff wrote, “I’m having the time of my life. I’m more of an introvert, so I am loving the peace and quiet. I bake bread for all my friends and coworkers, work on other food projects, go on super early morning walks before everyone else gets up now that I go to bed before 2 AM, I forage in low population areas now that it’s extremely close to mushroom season, and read a lot more. I’d like to work more on gardening, but it’s certainly not the best idea to spend a lot of time at the garden shops and Home Depot.”

So while some people may be having a good time with this, hundreds of thousands are not having the pinnacle staycation that they think. Isolation and cabin fever are not your friends, but we are kind of forced into this situation. So be calm, stay at home, eat some Cheez-Its and read a book.

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