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Across America: When the Economy ‘Bounces Back,’ Who Actually Recovers?

A 'we are hiring' sign in front of a store in Miami, Florida.
A 'we are hiring' sign in front of a store in Miami, Florida.

According to several popularly-referenced indicators, the state of the American economy is supposedly slowly improving.

Unemployment claims are down and consumer confidence is up. U.S. jobless claims fell to 684,000 last week, the lowest level since the pandemic began over a year ago.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the U.S. economy should grow at its fastest pace in four decades this year with unemployment steadily dropping and expected to hit 4.5 percent.

But these numbers aren’t always good indicators of how Americans are faring during a period of financial difficulty. In November 2020, the Economic Policy Institute estimated 25 million American workers are either unemployed, underemployed or have pulled out of the workforce entirely, many of whom are low-wage earners. The American Communities Project has been looking at what parts of the country have been hit hardest. 

Could a heated economic recovery pull these workers back into the labor force? Or will America’s most vulnerable workers be left behind?

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