In spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns had huge effects on unemployment. Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, we describe the financial profiles of US families whose workers were most vulnerable to coronavirus-related earnings losses in the spring of 2020, based on whether a particular worker was deemed “essential” and whether a worker’s job could be conducted remotely. We use descriptive analytic techniques to examine how families’ baseline financial situations would allow them to weather COVID-shutdown-related earnings losses. We find that families with non-teleworkable workers who were most vulnerable to layoff also had both demographic and financial profiles that are associated with greater vulnerability to income shocks: non-teleworkable families were more likely to be people of color and single wage-earners, and also to have less savings. The median non-teleworkable family, whether in non-essential or essential occupations, held only three weeks of income in savings, underscoring the importance of policy measures to blunt the financial effect of the COVID crisis.
Keywords: Savings, COVID-19, coronavirus, essential workers
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