The unvaccinated and the unemployed

Roughly 49% of the US population has not received at least the first dose of a Covid vaccine. Total employment is down 7.6 million from early 2020. Should we conclude:

1. The 160 million unvaccinated Americans have searched and searched and just can’t find any location willing to offer them a vaccine. (Or that perhaps it’s too expensive for them to afford.)

2. The unemployed have searched and searched and just can’t seem to find any employers who are looking for workers. (But not teens, they are having no problem finding jobs.)

Speaking for myself, I’m inclined to doubt both hypotheses. I suspect that there are other factors that explain the surprisingly large number of unvaccinated and unemployed.

Perhaps some people don’t want to be vaccinated. Perhaps some people don’t want to be employed.

PS. Tyler Cowen quotes Betsey Stevenson making this claim:

The problem is that old jobs are long gone for the vast majority of those who remain unemployed.

Perhaps the old jobs are permanently gone. Or maybe it’s the old workers that are temporarily gone.



52 Responses to “The unvaccinated and the unemployed”

  1. Gravatar of rayward rayward
    6. June 2021 at 12:55

    Jon Rahm, the Spanish golfer currently ranked third best in the world, tested positive for covid and had to withdraw after Saturday’s third round at the Memorial golf tournament in Ohio, where he was leading by six shots. Six shots! If he had won the tournament today, he would have collected a check for $1,674,000, plus lots of FedEx points in the quest for the tour championship, first place prize money being $15 million for that feat. According to Golf Channel: “It’s unknown if Rahm is fully vaccinated, but if he were, Levinson explained that he would not be subject to contact tracing unless he developed symptoms. According to the Tour, Rahm was asymptomatic.”

  2. Gravatar of steve steve
    6. June 2021 at 13:35

    In my network we are only running 20% of our vaccination sites compared with 2 months ago. I vaccinated yesterday. 186 vaccinations scheduled, 9 of which were initial vaccinations 177 were second shots and of those 7 did not show. At the same site 2 weeks ago I did 225. About 2/3 of those vaccinated were teens. My experience is pretty much what others I speak with in my state are seeing. We have vaccines and people and places ready to give them just dont have the patients. 59% of our state has received at least one dose.

    No strong opinion about the employment except that it looks to be multifactorial with the biggest component the UI money. I would guess child care its second most important. Looking at the paper Cowen put up recently I also have to think there is some job mismatching.


  3. Gravatar of Brian Brian
    6. June 2021 at 14:11

    Why does a 40kg person get the same shot as an 100kg person? If the smaller person feels ill after the influenza shot, their answers to the screening questions for the covid shot may make them ineligible. Of course the reason why everybody gets the same shot is because the tests for safety and efficacy are done that way. Perhaps the shots need to be scaled for the size of the person at the safety and efficacy trial.

  4. Gravatar of marcus nunes marcus nunes
    6. June 2021 at 14:43

    It appears ignorance clusters!

  5. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    6. June 2021 at 16:02


    Why does a 40kg person get the same shot as an 100kg person?

    Vaccinations do not work like “normal” medication, the dosages are lower and therefore not dependent on weight, except sometimes in children. The therapeutic range, i.e. the safety range, is also much larger.

    You could overdose a vaccine like Moderna 5-10 times and not much would happen. It would be excessive to change the dosages just because of irrelevant weight differences.

    You want to trigger a sufficient immune response and to do that you have to cross a certain threshold, which is fairly similar in all adults no matter how slim or how fat they are.

  6. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    6. June 2021 at 16:10

    I’ve been wondering if some of the effects on employment will be permanent, since markets are indicating the expected real NGDP growth path is so anemic. Perhaps it’s not anemic in Scott’s eyes, since it’s close to being in line with some of his prior predictions, but I think most will be surprised if something doesn’t change for the better.

    Also, I wonder if the population growth rate will now be on a steeper decline well after economic recovery from the pandemic. We almost reached zero in 2020.

  7. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    6. June 2021 at 20:32

    Are those vaccination numbers inclusive of children? The world bank estimated that in 2019, 19% of the US population was 14 years old or younger. So if it is 50% of the total population that has been vaccinated, that is closer to 62% of eligible residents vaccinated.

  8. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    6. June 2021 at 21:24

    Vaccinations aren’t important for those under 55 if they have no bad condition like significant obesity, and many know this. The need for vaccination has also been sharply reduced as cases and deaths keep quickly falling due to increased natural immunity and from vaccinations. If Covid-19 comes back in the fall it will make sense for older people who haven’t had a shot to do so in the fall.

  9. Gravatar of Garrett Garrett
    7. June 2021 at 03:38

    Anecdotally, restaurant and bar service sucks right now. Places are totally understaffed on waiters/waitresses and bartenders so it takes forever to get served and there are help wanted signs everywhere. I was talking to the manager of a restaurant and he said that he has one bartender working double shifts every day of the week. He had a guy come in for bartender training but he no-call-no-showed on his first day of work, suggesting that he was just doing it to show effort in finding a job so he could continue collecting unemployment. But the same manager has 4 teenage hostesses right now working part-time.

    I also have a friend who’s bartending under-the-table while collecting UI. He’s having a great summer so far.

  10. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    7. June 2021 at 06:10

    Yes it’s incredibly easy to get service sector jobs right now. Even tier 1 places where people actually made careers will hirer people off the streets.

    We can probably do smaller vaccines for everyone as Cowen been speculating. But we had to get the studies done fast so only had limited data. Same thing with data on second dose. Those almost certainly give a better response if delayed but they needed the studies done fast and couldn’t wait for a 3 month dosing schedule versus getting studies done faster.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. June 2021 at 07:30

    Garrett, I took a trip a few weeks back and noticed the same thing. There is clearly an adverse supply of labor shock.

  12. Gravatar of Rinat Rinat
    7. June 2021 at 08:03

    1. Why would anyone want to work in an environment where if you are white, and male, you are targeted as having a “hidden agenda”, by those subjectively propagating the pseudo science “implicit bias”.

    2. Of course people are hesitant to get the vaccine. The virus is man-made, as stated numerous times by the best in the profession, including a French Nobel Prize winner; and now, finally, since Trump is gone, Berkeley professors decide they will agree with the Nobel Prize winners assessment. Amazing how a change of politics changes the research results of “psycho academics” from far left, watered-down, fringe universities like Berkeley.

    The Vaccine was rushed. There is an ongoing debate about its efficacy, and the dangers it poses. Over 4000 have now died from the vaccine.

    Why don’t you stop worrying about what other people are “choosing to do”. And start focusing on “YOU”, Mr. Tyrannical economist.

    When you graduate from medical school, please do let me know. Then, we can take your medical advice a bit more seriously. In the meantime, I suggest listening to Nobel Prize winners in the profession. They might know a thing or two 🙂

  13. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    7. June 2021 at 11:46

    Where did you get the estimate of 4000 deaths from?

  14. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    7. June 2021 at 11:54

    VEARS has reported around 4,000 deaths but the CDC has clearly been backlogged with cases. Not all of those deaths will end up with a link to a Covid vaccine but in the first few months of 2021 VEARS has reported more deaths with a Covid vaccine than the previous 28 years combined. In the past ten years, 150 or so vaccine related deaths have been reported each year.

  15. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    7. June 2021 at 11:59

    @Michael Sandifer

    I’ve been wondering if some of the effects on employment will be permanent, since markets are indicating the expected real NGDP growth path is so anemic.

    Unemployment will move more toward Europe the more the US copies the European welfare state – and under Biden, that is exactly what is being done, especially with regard to unemployment benefits, etc.

    Scott should not complain so much, he had a choice in fall between a complete idiot who talks a lot but does not much because he is too incompetent – and a lesser idiot who talks less but will implement a lot more. Scott has made his choice. The outcome was known beforehand.

    Scott might meet many more “nice” waitresses for the rest of his life, because what Biden is establishing now will be difficult to roll back. Biden will not let this crisis go to waste, as some politicians like to say.

    It was an important decision, maybe even the right decision. Now deal with it.

  16. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    7. June 2021 at 12:05

    Not sure if you follow Arindrajit Dube on your anonymous Twitter account, but he claims (18 May) that much of the total jobs shortfall is (generally) blue states reopening later than red states. March 2021 as a % of Jan 2020 employment was >1 in Idaho and Utah and <0.95 in Hawaii, Nevada, NY, DC, California, Mass, Vermont, etc. Hence he thinks jobs will continue to grow through the northern summer as blue states reopen (rather than jobs arriving after extended UI ends). He also defends extended UI as helping give time to workers to find good matches rather than "throwing them to the wolves" (exchange with Adam ozimek 2 days ago). He supports fiscal stimulus for the same reason – it helps with reallocation (same exchange). It's interesting to me that Dube is one of the main researchers on minimum wages and finds that they tend not to reduce employment. Are his views informed by his research or is his research informed by his views?

  17. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    7. June 2021 at 16:07

    This is somewhat offtopic, yet does pertain to the issue of unemployment.

    I read that the 1968 minimum wage would be around $10 dollars if tracked for inflation. That would be around a 20k salary if working full time. Yet, the 1968 real per capita gdp was around 24k. So does that mean throughout the end of the 1960s we had a minimum wage delivering nearly same income per capita as the gdp per capita?
    Yet, unemployment was only around 3.7% in 1968. What was happening in the 1960s?

  18. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    7. June 2021 at 16:34

    The OECD says in 1970, the earliest year they list, the U.S. GDP per capita was $28,400 in today’s dollars. The minimum wage in 1970 was $11.40 so full time was $23,000 or about 80% the GDP per capita.

    The gini coefficient was around .35 so less inequality than from the early 1990s when it reached .40 and now .41. There was greater equality because lower skilled women and immigrants hadn’t yet pushed down the average wage starting from the early 1970s.

  19. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    7. June 2021 at 17:00

    I disagree with immigration as well, but such a high minimum wage relative to productivity should also impact unemployment as well. The effect of the minimum wage should be apparent in the 1968 unemployment figures, where it is like 85% of gdp per capita.

    My guess is the rise in chronic unemployment in the West is due to unemployment insurance rather than the minimum wage, since East Asia also has high minimum wages relative to gdp per capita, and low unemployment.
    South Korea’s minimum wage is 56% of gdp per capita and Japan’s is 35% of gdp per capita

  20. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    7. June 2021 at 20:58

    @Todd Kreider and @rinat
    That’s works out to around .002% of the 170m Americans who received the vaccine even if you were to assume their deaths were causally linked and not just coincidental. But based on CDC investigation of the numbers it seems only a handful of the deaths are actually causally linked. That seems like a microscopic risk.

  21. Gravatar of BC BC
    7. June 2021 at 22:18

    @Carl: “That’s works out to around .002% of the 170m Americans who received the vaccine”

    Exactly. How many deaths (including non-Covid) among the 160M unvaccinated Americans over the same period? That’s the (non-random, self-selected) control group.

  22. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    8. June 2021 at 03:05

    There is no way that only a handful out of 4,000 are causally linked.

    VEARS lists another 4,500 who have had life threatening conditions associated with the vaccine. i never claimed getting a Covid vaccine was a large risk but wouldn’t call it “microscopic” especially considering people’s expectations are that it is similar to the risk of getting a flu shot.

    These deaths’ are also occurring in healthy young people who never needed to get a vaccine in the first place including a 15 year old girl in Wisconsin and 17 year old boy in Colorado who had severe side effects within in hours of being vaccinated and died.

  23. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    8. June 2021 at 05:21

    That is going to be some very big number like 650k I think. That does highlight the opportunity for drawing the wrong conclusion from a couple of thousand deaths if you can’t establish plausible causality.

  24. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    8. June 2021 at 05:42

    Carl, why hasn’t anything close to this happened with flu deaths, then?
    We know that there are also tons of severe reactions to the Covid vaccines that you never hear about with a flu shot which about 150 to 160 million Americans received each year. Why 150 possible flu vaccination deaths those years and 4,000 possible Covid vaccination deaths this year? Then again, what’s a little 25 fold increase among friends?

  25. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    8. June 2021 at 06:06

    It’s a valid question and one the CDC researchers have taken on. They’re not finding links. And these are the same people who came under a great deal of criticism for pausing J&J vaccinations out of an abundance of caution.
    It’s also a valid question to ask whether reporting might be higher in a year where vaccinations have been so highly publicized and politicized. What would be helpful is data on the incidence of deaths of people within a couple of weeks of receiving flu shots. A number like 150 seems suspiciously low if 100m Americans get the flu shot annually. For a very crude number, take the annual death rate of 8 per 1000, divide it by 26 to give you a two week reporting window, multiply that by 100m and you get an expected 31k deaths within two weeks of receiving the flu shot. Only 0.5% of that number drew an association with their flu shot. Would relatives and doctors have been more likely to report the association if it were a COVID vaccine? It doesn’t seem an unreasonable question to me.

  26. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    8. June 2021 at 07:31

    Again, you are forgetting about the harsh side effects that millions have experienced with Covid-19 shots that last from 1 to 5 days from what I have heard from friends and seen what nurses and doctors have reported about themselves and their colleagues on youtube. Some have reported lingering effects weeks after a shot. This does not exist for flu shots.

    Of the four cases of deaths (ages 15, 17 and two men in their 40s) immediately following Covid shots I read about on the news the pattern was the same: intense headaches that millions have had but instead of abating they get even worse and then the person was found dead within hours.

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. June 2021 at 07:49

    Rinat, LOL at the commenters on this blog. No, I didn’t criticize people for not getting vaccinated. Do you know how to read?

    Todd, Why am I not surprised to see you join the vaccine conspiracy theorists?

    Rajat, It’s quite clear that extended unemployment comp is discouraging employment. If that claim were not true then we should stop teaching economics in college, as our models are completely false. Imagine a world where a 25 year old single male said “I can get $800/week at a job I hate or $1000 a week playing video games. I think I’ll take the job!” If that’s true then all of economic theory is false. Just hang it up.

    Anon, I believe the minimum wage was higher in relative terms in 1968, but I don’t know the specific figures. Per capita GDP is not the right comparison, as a smaller percentage of the population was working. My family had 5 members, only one of which worked. It was a very different economy. But yes, income was more equal back then.

  28. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    8. June 2021 at 08:03

    Thanks for the response. Japan and South Korea have very high minimum wage to gdp per capita ratio and have high labor participation rates and employment figures.
    My idea is that unemployment insurance rather than minimum wage is what drives unemployment mostly, though not to state that min wages dont matter. After all, I think there is very little welfare in East Asia, with low rates of gov spending as a % of gdp, with most on infrastructure not welfare. Yet, they have also high min wages and low unemployment. That may also explain bad employment figures currently in USA.

  29. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    8. June 2021 at 08:46

    “Todd, Why am I not surprised to see you join the vaccine conspiracy theorists?”

    Scott, why am I not surprised that you are completely oblivious to what a VAERS report is?

  30. Gravatar of Rinat Rinat
    8. June 2021 at 09:19

    Carl – The data cited comes from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System — VAERS — which is managed by the CDC and the FDA.

    I presume you are unaware such a reporting system exists, since your primary news source is most likely CNN. You can imagine that VAERS data doesn’t fit their “narrative”.

    Scott is a pretty nice guy, but he’s a leftward leaning economist with ties to the CCP; his politics are pretty bizarre and contradicting, and he’s extremely arrogant. The fact is that he knows NOTHING about medicine.

    Sorry, but it’s the truth!

  31. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    8. June 2021 at 09:46

    My family and friends would get a kick out of hearing someone accuse me of getting my information from CNN.

    Regarding VAERS, I read the limitations posted on the site (

    Because VAERS allows anyone to report possible side effects from vaccines, it includes reports that might or might not be caused by vaccines. VAERS is not designed to identify cause and effect. VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. Some reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. Most reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. Data from VAERS reports should always be interpreted with these limitations in mind.

    In other words, don’t take the numbers at face value.

  32. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    8. June 2021 at 11:00


    The numbers are only cited by these folks if they support their ‘Covid is a hoax/it’s not that bad/nobody needs to do anything including vaccinate’ worldview.

    So much clowniness.

  33. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    8. June 2021 at 11:19


    Martin Kulldorff at Harvard is one of the top three vaccine safety experts in the world and has recommended against vaccinating young people as needlessly risky. Emotionalists like you and Scott, who don’t think in terms of costs and benefits, sure are quick to whip out the conspiracy card.

  34. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    8. June 2021 at 12:00

    @Todd K:

    It’s not a conspiracy, there have been anti-vaxxers since the beginning, even with the polio vaccine. Sad.

  35. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    8. June 2021 at 15:34

    You think those who argue the older population should be given a vaccine are anti-vaxxers? You do understand the prefix “anti”, right?

  36. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. June 2021 at 08:27

    Anon, Certainly at current levels of the minimum wage in the US it’s not a big cause of unemployment.

  37. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    10. June 2021 at 02:27

    Todd Kreider,

    There really is nothing kind one can say about your comments here. Even if some “vaccine safety expert” at Harvard recommends against vaccinating children, what do most experts recommend? Conspiracy theorists can always find some outliers among experts to try to support their irrational beliefs, but typically ignore expert consensus.

    Then you go on to talk about anecdotes of questionable authenticity as if anyone should take them seriously, even if confirmed, after 10s of millions of Americans and others have had the vaccines you’re talking about, most of whom had virtually no side effects.and most of those with side effects haven’t gone beyond first day with a cold type symptoms. I was vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, like many others I know, and experienced no side effects.

    On paper, the MRNA vaccines are the safest ever developed, as they don’t even use weakened or dead parts of the Covid-19 virus to trigger the immunization. And in practice, at least over a period of several months now, we know these vaccines are ultra safe and represent far, far, far smaller risks to health than Covid-19. That’s true for each individual, and especially for the public good.

    You are the one who is entirely irrational, and making emotionally-based decisions. The emotion on this case is fear, because you’re a coward, and you think it’s okay to risk public health to make yourself feel good. I think the vaccines should be mandatory.

    It’s especially rich to accuse an economist of failing to understand the cost benefit analysis here, when it’s clear you seem to know nothing about economics, public health, or anything else, as far as I’ve seen. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my guess is you’re probably a religious fundamentalist of some sort, which is w group of people who are increasingly causing problems as they fail to adapt to modernity.

  38. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    10. June 2021 at 14:03

    Germany’s scientific vaccine advisory board just recommended not to give vaccines to those under 18 unless they have a medical condition that would likely make Covid severe.

    So yeah, me and the Germans are the irrational ones. As usual.

    My degrees are physics and mathematics (undergrad), public policy and finally economics, and I haven’t joined Scott’s mask cult.

  39. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    10. June 2021 at 14:23

    Todd Kreider,

    What’s the rate of adverse responses among children, and how many children have had the various vaccines thus far?

    And, are you a fundamentalist Christian?

  40. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    10. June 2021 at 14:41

    Take it up with the Germans, mate.

  41. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. June 2021 at 14:51

    Todd, There is no commenter who has been wrong about more things over the past 12 months than you.

    Sorry, but I’ll look elsewhere for evidence on vaccines.

  42. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    10. June 2021 at 14:54

    BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s vaccine advisory committee, known as STIKO, recommended on Thursday that only children and adolescents with pre-existing conditions should be given the coronavirus vaccine produced by Pfizer and partner BioNTech.

    STIKO said in a statement that it recommends a vaccination only for those youngsters with an illness that raises their risk of a serious case of coronavirus.

    It said it was not currently recommending the use of the vaccine for those aged 12-17 without pre-existing conditions, although noted doctors were allowed to give the shot if the individual accepts the risk.

  43. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    10. June 2021 at 17:27

    Todd Kreider,

    So, you’re just appealing to authority, and you have no data. That’s not surprising.

    I’ll take you ignoring my question about whether you’re a Christian fundamentalist to be an implicit yes.

  44. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    10. June 2021 at 21:08

    Sorry Mike,

    I have only so much patience with old geezers like you and Scott who haven’t taken a science course since you were 17.

  45. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    10. June 2021 at 22:16

    Todd Kreider,

    I’m curious as to when you actually introduce the science. Science requires data, and you’ve presented none, presumably because you haven’t taken a scientific approach in developing your opinion.

    Again, what’s the instance of adverse reactions to the vaccines among children, and how many children have received them? You said Scott can’t do cost-benefit analyses, yet you can’t seem to demonstrate you’ve done so in forming your opinion.

    Also, are you denying that Jesus is your lord and savior?

  46. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    11. June 2021 at 02:11

    Mike: “Also, are you denying that Jesus is your lord and savior?”

    Must you post when you are drunk?

  47. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    11. June 2021 at 07:09

    Todd K has nothing but appeals to authority, petulance, and avoidance. No data, no proof, nothing. Classic troll, quite entertaining.

  48. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. June 2021 at 07:26

    Todd, You said:

    “I have only so much patience with old geezers like you and Scott who haven’t taken a science course since you were 17.”

    This from the guy who thought the Danish study showed that masks don’t prevent transmission. LOL.

    Do you even know how to read a scientific paper?

  49. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    11. June 2021 at 09:39

    I never said that the Danish study concluded that masks don’t prevent transmission of coronavirus.

  50. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. June 2021 at 07:59

    Todd, Yes, you did.

  51. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    13. June 2021 at 20:10

    @Michael Sandifer
    Where are you getting your Christian = anti-vaxxer data from?

  52. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    16. June 2021 at 00:25

    “Masterclass on SARS-CoV-2.”

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