The Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University finds that one out of every six workers could be negatively impacted by social distancing, costing them their incomes for as long as the coronavirus outbreak lasts.
Many of those jobs are held by people who can least afford the lost wages, such as food servers and cinema workers.
Social distancing is a deliberate effort to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by telling people to stay at home or work from home. It has also led to the closure of countless restaurants, bars, and theaters.
“Workers in industries likely avoided by households practicing extreme social distancing will likewise face negative labor demand shocks, as restaurants, movie theaters and recreational activities close,” explained Ball State economist Michael Hicks. “In these instances, all workers, not just those who interact with customers and with one another will likely experience negative labor demand shocks.”
Hicks estimates there are more than 28 million jobs across the U.S. which involve levels of physical proximity with others. That number accounts for about 17% of U.S. employment.
He said these workers tend to be less well paid and fewer available sick days.
Hicks admits the study did not have good previous evidence on the effect of extreme social distancing, as it has not happened in recent decades across a large share of a nation.
The center’s report indicates it cannot predict the duration or share of jobs lost to prudent disease prevention measures. However, it does say the amount is “significant and warrants immediate public policy concerns for federal and state policymakers. “