2020 was a devastating year for working Americans

The latest Labor Department report shows another 841,000 people filed new claims for state unemployment, plus another 308,000 gig workers and independent contractors filed for Federal Pandemic Relief. All told, that's well over 1.1 million new claims just last week, down only slightly from the previous week but well over any other we experienced in the Great Recession. 

One year ago, folks celebrated the coming of 2020 with justifiable economic hope, confidence, but oblivious to the invisible enemy already beginning to spread. But, just last week, 210,000 Californians applied for state or Federal unemployment assistance.

"These are just new claims and we still have another 1.12 million Californians who are receiving regular unemployment assistance," said labor lawyer and for EDD Director Michael Bernick.

Since the beginning of the pandemic 3.5 million Californians and 18 million nationwide have lost their jobs with, 12.6 million of them still unemployed.

It was all so different the last day of December a year ago. "We had a booming economy with record low unemployment. All sectors of the economy were doing very, very well, wages were growing at all different levels," said Stephen Baiter, Executive Director of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance.

Today, 40 percent of U.S. small businesses have gone under or are barely hanging on by their fingernails.

"We've never had anything like this since the Great Depression and it's far, far beyond any of the four major economic downturns we've had in our state over the last 40 years in terms of decimation of our small business economy in our state, in terms of business closures," said Bernick.

Any chance at a truly significant jobs recovery is, due to delays, remain many months away.

"Vaccination, from the standpoint of the economy, really helps to support confidence and, right now, confidence is one of the main things that is lacking just because of all the uncertainty," said Mr. Baiter. "The speed of the vaccination is going to be more important to our employment recovery than anything else. How quickly we recover will be how quickly we can get mass vaccination and get that process successfully done and how quickly we reopen the schools and reopen businesses," said Bernick.

Prognosticators erroneously predicted in each of the last four major U.S. economic downturns, since the 1980's, that t things would never be the same again. This time around, they will be different.

"This economic downturn and the pandemic will lead to not only obvious changes in the work place, but changes in the structure of jobs," said Bernick. "It's very clear that 2021 is not necessarily gonna be as different as 2020 as many of us are hoping. I think we're still going to need to mask up and keep socially distant and do all these other things at least for the foreseeable future," said Baiter.

The one bright ray of hope: the sale, packing and shipping of goods, ala Amazon, has blossomed with jobs.