Young people may be out of work, but their wallets are full
The economy, and the world at large, is at a standstill. The Fed helped pass the CARES act to help businesses stay afloat, to bolster those receiving unemploymen, and even to give stimulus checks to millions of Americans.
This extra unemployment money was promised at $600/week, in addition to the unemployment pay base. This is expected to run through July. That means up to $9,600 of extra unemployment money per person.
Thus far, 36.5 million Americans have applied for unemployment in the last eight weeks.
So what are folks doing with their newfound wealth and abundant time with no ioncentive to return to work?
“I have a lot more time on my hands. I get to chill and play beer die,” said Eli Warmenhoven, a 23-year old (and close friend of Hite) living in Bend, Oregon.
*Beer die is a drinking game played outdoors with dice and cups.
Warmenhoven graduated from Chico State with a bachelor’s degree and immediately moved back home to save money as he pays off his student loans. He was a bookkeeper for Les Schwab Tires at the time the pandemic hit..
Warmenhoven was making around $700 a week working full time but, when coronavirus came, he had his hours reduced to 12 per week. “They told me they had no intention of firing me. But you saw that story where they fired like 1,500 people. I just got lucky,” said Warmenhoven.
Now, Warmenhoven is paying all his taxes up front and is walking away with around $850 a week as he works 28 hours less.
“If they fired me and there was no CARES act I would have to find a job that is deemed ‘essential,’” said Warmenhoven as he discussed hypotheticals, “If [the boosted payments] run out and Les Schwab can’t give me more than 12 hours within a month, I might have to give them the boot.”
Abby Troy, a Mammoth Lakes resident, worked as a server at the Liberty Sports Bar and Grill and as a junior race team coach at Mammoth Mountain.
Troy had applied for unemployment after tearing her ACL/MCL last year and still had a claim open. She had a low base of $61 but is now receiving $661 a week.
“My perspective was, I saved good money through the winter. And I thought, it’s not going to hurt anything [to collect],” said Troy, “But this has already lasted longer than I expected so the money is going straight into my savings.”
When Troy was let go from Liberty, she was told she’d be working by May. Which became June. And at this point, even Troy thinks that date could be pushed all the way back to July.
“My life hasn’t changed that much. I don’t spend a ton of money so I have been living pretty much the same,” said Troy.
Troy was backcountry skiing at first. Then she visited family. And now she wants to take a roadtrip up the California coast. Troy reflected on the moment. “All this made me appreciate being with my family [in L.A.] at a time like this.”
Still, the lack of productivity is bothersome for Troy, “I don’t like collecting unemployment. I hate not working,” she said.
Zach Petersen, a Mammoth resident, worked as a food-runner for Mammoth Tavern until the restaurant halted operations. Now Petersen is temporarily living with his parents in southern California and saving up money to move back to Mammoth, contingent on a job.
Silver linings are far and in between right now. Presumably, a certain percentage of
the 36.5 million unemployed are learning new skills to bring back to the workforce. Petersen is using his newfound money to pay for online brewing school. A $3,000 venture that he hopes will set him up for more opportunity when he gets back to Mammoth.
The added unemployment money has essentially created a nationwide universal basic income (UBI) study.
Proponents of UBI claim the money offers a higher income floor for a population, which will maintain a certain level of security and perhaps encourage people to explore and gain new skills with less risk.
Those against UBI claim it will lead to laziness. If people have a guaranteed income then they will have no extraneous desire to produce.
Both sides are likely right. But for Peterson and Clair Denicke, a current business-marketing major at Sonoma State, the extra unemployment money has represented an overt positive.
Denicke went from being a student working part-time making about $600 a week to doing online classes at home making $950 a week. She lost her jobs at a winery near Sonoma, and also as an intern for Leonor Greyl, a company that sells hair products, in the same month.
But Denicke was about to graduate and look for other jobs anyways. “I want to move out [of mom and dad’s house]. But I want to find a good job before I do,” said Denicke.
Denicke told The Sheet that the extra unemployment money has raised her bar as she searches for her first post-college job.
The incentive to work is still there, only now, she has the freedom to try and find a job that fits her criteria. “I probably would have accepted whatever job came my way,” said Denicke as she discussed the possibility of receiving no extra unemployment money.
When Mammoth Mountain closed for the season, Maurice Cooper was told that the best thing he could do was collect unemployment.
Cooper, who had worked as a ski instructor and host for mountain events, says he’s making more now than he was while working for the mountain and he’s using his spare time to work on personal goals like content creation and fitness.
“It’s never been this high,” Cooper said, noting that prior to the pandemic, unemployment checks would be in thr $250-$350/week range, depending upon current income.
As of now, he’s waiting to hear if his summer job as a tour guide for the Mono Historical Society’s trolley tours will still go ahead. In the meantime, Cooper says, “I’m just gonna do things that i’ve always wanted to do.”