Throughout the pandemic, federal estimates show about half of Hoosier employers told workers not to work at some point. But the U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics says a significant number still paid workers or kept paying health insurance premiums.
BLS surveyed businesses across the country to quantify how the pandemic affected workers and employers. The impacts in Indiana were mostly on par with national averages. Even though more than 50 percent saw a decrease in demand, only about 15 percent closed due to government orders.
Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber, said he saw more exaggerated versions of those same trends in surveys it conducted earlier this year. He’s most worried about the bottom third of wage earners who he says are still suffering economically.
“One of the things that this underscores, for Indiana, is that we have lots of work to do to lift up the skills and the training of our adult workforce,” he said.
He said the situation for businesses and workers will improve if the pandemic abates, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
“We can see the end of this thing with the vaccines coming out, and it will really knock things down, but we still have to be vigilant in the meantime,” he said.
Brinegar also noted he’s seeing an increase in companies – especially manufacturers – looking to increase automation. Economists note the trend wasn’t started by COVID-19, but has gained traction during the year.
One of the Indiana Chamber surveys in June showed about a quarter of its members were concerned about being sued by workers who believe they contracted COVID-19 on the job. Liability protections have been one of the hot-button issues holding up another relief package in Congress.