“The virus is the boss,” Austan Goolsbee, former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, told Stephanie Ruhle this morning on MSNBC.

Goolsbee and Jason Furman, former Chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, tag-teamed the U.S. economic outlook following today’s news that the U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs — the greatest job loss since April 2020 in the second month of the pandemic.

The 2020-21 economic recession is the first time in U.S. history that a downturn had nothing to do with the economy per se.

As Uwe Reinhardt, health economist guru, is whispering in my ear from his heavenly perch, “It’s the virus, stupid.”

COVID-19 is, indeed, a tough boss.

This week, the U.S. hit a COVID-19 mortality apex of 4,000 deaths in one day, a spike that resulted in part from holiday reunions among family and friends in late December through New Year’s.

At the start of the 2021 new year, one-half of U.S. consumers say the “important things in life today” are health and financial security, according to the latest study from the Retirement Security Survey conducted by Principal in Q4 2020.

In third place, one-third of Americans say that having a close-knit family is very important in today’s life.

Americans share caution looking at the national economy for the next year. One-half of people in the U.S. (with at least one investment in a Principal company account) are concerned about a recession, with most planning to making changes to their financial health due to the coronavirus. Key financial priorities in 2021 will be paying off debt, building up emergency savings, and paying for day-to-day living expenses.

There are some important differences between men and women regarding health and wealth in 2021. More men than women feel secure about their household income, as well as financial security, retirement savings and investments.

Furthermore, fewer women feel like they are in good health as they begin the new year, and fewer women also feel “happiness in life today” the Principal survey found.

Note that the study was conducted among Principal clients who had at least one investment with the company, so this was a consumer sample that had some level of savings in their financial lives.

Job losses at the start of the coronavirus pandemic hit the health care industry hard. A January 2021 study from Altarum looked at health sector job recovery, finding slower return-to-work for women. This third chart, labeled Figure 6, details health occupations with the largest differences in employed women and men. You can see million-person differences for registered nurses, nursing assistants, and personal care aides, and half-million worker deltas for LPNs and medical assistants.


Health Populi’s Hot Points:  While the 2007-8 Great Recession was considered more of a “He-Cession,” this round of U.S. economic downturn is definitely hitting women harder — thus, we consider it a “She-Cession,” hitting women particularly harder as workers, parents, and caregivers.

New data on mortality by health care profession reveals that nurses have been harder-hit, too, by COVID-19 than other professions. Yet, ironically, nursing is the most respected profession in America based on the latest Gallup Poll on honesty and ethics across U.S. jobs.

I contrast the mortality data on the left of this last chart with the most-respected profession data from Gallup on the lower right of the chart.

COVID-19 is indeed a very tough boss — particularly for women and, especially, on nurses in America.

The care economy is in crisis at the beginning of 2021: childcare, home care, health care alike.

The sooner vaccination happens in most Americans’ arms, the sooner our lives and livelihoods can converge, jobs can return, and health will bless health citizens across the U.S. — women and men, people across racial and ethnic segments, students and workers and retirees alike.