A Distinct Possibility: 'Temporary' Layoffs May Be Permanent
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A Distinct Possibility: 'Temporary' Layoffs May Be Permanent
In late March, Britney Ruby Miller, co-owner of a small chain of steakhouse restaurants, confidently proclaimed that once the viral outbreak had subsided, her company planned to recall all its laid-off workers.

Now? Miller would be thrilled to restore, by year’s end, three-quarters of the roughly 600 workers her company had to let go.

“I’m being realistic,” she said. “Bringing back 75% of our staff would be incredible.”

Call it realism or pessimism, but more employers are coming to a reluctant conclusion: Many of the employees they’ve had to lay off in the face of the pandemic might not be returning to their old jobs anytime soon. Some large companies won’t have enough customers to justify it. And some small businesses won’t likely survive at all despite aid provided by the federal government.

If so, that would undercut a glimmer of hope in the brutal April jobs report the government issued Friday, in which a record-shattering 20.5 million people lost jobs: A sizable majority of the jobless — nearly 80% — characterized their loss as only temporary.

That could still turn out to be the case for some. The federal government may end up allocating significantly more financial aid for people and small businesses. And more testing for the coronavirus, not to mention an eventual vaccine or an effective drug therapy, would make more Americans comfortable returning to the restaurants, shops, airports and movie theaters they used to frequent. That, in turn, would lead companies to recall more laid-off workers.

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May 15, 2020