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How reopening economies will have an impact on unemployment

As businesses reopen, economists said we can expect unemployment benefit claims to fall, though not at the same rate as they grew

ST. LOUIS — The open sign at BEAST Butcher & Block in St. Louis' The Grove neighborhood emitted a soft orange glow after weeks in the dark.

The barbecue restaurant's staff greeted customers at the front door, handing paper bags across the table for take-away consumption.

Nick Blaine stopped by for the restaurant's reopening, picking up several cuts of meat from its small grocery and supporting this business, which is within walking distance of his own front door.

"Oh, it's huge," Blaine said of his commitment to supporting small businesses.
"We've been trying to support where we can, when we can. We're just trying to support the local neighborhood."

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As businesses reopen, economists said we can expect unemployment benefit claims to fall, though not at the same rate as they grew.

"To bounce back in a month or two is just way too optimistic" Washington University Professor of Economics and Sociology Steven Fazzari said.

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He explained that the recovery will depend on a number of factors: how many businesses reopen and how long it takes them to do so, when consumers feel comfortable getting back to parts of their normal routines and society's ability to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 cases with additional resulting stay-home orders.

"Recovery is expected to be much faster than it was from the Great Recession. The drop was much deeper, but I think the economy recovery is going to be much faster. The difference is that in the Great Recession the problem was inside the economy," Fazzari said.

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Valerie Patton, Senior Vice President of Workforce Development at the St. Louis Regional Chamber, said she expects — even as the economy rebounds — many people won't return to their previous jobs. Instead, she anticipates a new economy with less emphasis on face-to-face interaction and more reliance on technology.

"We have a lot of opportunity before us, but we can't wait on the opportunity to come to us," Patton said. "You do have a lot of opportunities to either explore something new, up-skill, re-skill, or just follow that passion that you may have had."

Patton expects many workers will pivot into new roles with more training and continuing education.

For more on job training, click here.

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