Pew report: Federal aid softened pandemic recession, sped recovery

By: - November 17, 2021 12:40 am

A customer uses an ATM at a Chase bank office. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Thanks in part to ongoing federal assistance, personal income in every state is higher than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Ohio, total personal income is up 3.7% compared to pre-pandemic levels after accounting for inflation.

Nationwide, the mark is even higher, 4.1% better than pre-pandemic levels, according to the report prepared by the Pew Charitable Trust. Pew researchers argue federal support was key to that rapid recovery.

“Thanks to the unprecedented temporary government aid, states largely avoided sharp declines in personal income after COVID-19 left millions unemployed,” the report said. “Total personal income exceeded its pre-pandemic level in every state less than a year after the latest recession officially ended.”

After the Great Recession, by contrast, it took five years for every state to return to pre-recession levels.

The report analyzes personal income, which adds together payroll earnings, benefits from programs like Medicare or social security, as well as employer contributions to retirement and health programs. The measure helps states project tax revenue, and helps federal authorities determine funding for services like Medicaid.

In recent months, elevated federal support and a tight job market have given workers the opportunity to demand higher wages. In Ohio, earnings have rebounded since the trough of the pandemic recession, and now sit roughly 1.3% higher than they were prior to the pandemic.

Still, Ohio’s labor market is still shaking off the recession. Employment rates for 25-54-year-olds have not fully recovered, and Ohio is not alone — every state’s prime age employment rate is down. According to Pew, the rate in Ohio is off by 3.2% from its 2019 level of 80.2% employment. That is slightly better than the national average of a 3.8% decline in employment.

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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.

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