Jobs

New York's Mayor Warned That COVID Shutdowns Hurt Low-Skill Workers. He's Absolutely Right. Twitter Got Mad Anyway.

Phony outrage is used to deflect from bad policy decisions.

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At a press conference Tuesday, New York City's new mayor, Eric Adams, urged local white-collar workers to start returning to the office a few days a week. Remote work and COVID shutdowns, he explained, had seriously hurt businesses that rely on commuter customers to survive.

This observation is obviously true, and plenty of data backs it up. But Adams angered people when he noted that many service workers don't have the option to work from home and don't have the skills for many office jobs: "My low-skilled workers, my cooks, my dishwashers, my messengers, my shoeshine people, those who work at Dunkin' Donuts—they don't have the academic skills to sit in the corner office." So instead of actually talking about the impact of COVID on these jobs, people are clutching their pearls in faux shock that the mayor had called them "low-skilled" workers. This was construed as an insult, rather than Adams pointing out the reality of COVID shutdowns have harmed New York's least-privileged workers.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) weighed in on Twitter: "The suggestion that any job is 'low skill' is a myth perpetuated by wealthy interests to justify inhumane working conditions, little/no healthcare, and low wages. Plus being a waitress has made me and many others *better* at our jobs than those who've never known that life."

The outrage is phony. Everyone who actually heard the mayor's original statement knows what he meant. Yesterday he went on CBS to explain the obvious: "If you are a dishwasher, you can't remotely do your job," Adams said. "If we don't have an accountant in an office space coming to a restaurant…that dishwasher's not going to have a job….We need to open the city so low-wage employees are able to survive."

The phrase "low-skill" is a standard economic term for jobs that can be learned quickly by the vast majority of people and do not require months or years of training to understand. This doesn't mean that anybody can thrive at a low-skill job and perform it exceptionally well. It means that most adults can learn to perform the tasks.

The reason "low-skill" jobs typically have low wages is a basic Econ 101 matter of supply and demand. Because most citizens are able to learn these jobs, the labor supply for the work is well above average, so these workers usually don't have much leverage to demand more. It is not a "myth perpetuated by wealthy interests," as Ocasio-Cortez insists. It's just economics. In the ongoing "Great Resignation" of people quitting their jobs, the lack of supply has caused these very same wages to rise. These "low-skilled" workers are an important part of the economy. That has nothing to do with how they're labeled, or how thin-skinned some people are pretending to be about it.

And Adams is absolutely correct that shutdowns hurt low-wage workers. November data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan institute that researches policies to reduce poverty and inequality, show that the poorest workers have been taking it in the shorts in the shutdowns. From February 2020 to September 2021, jobs were down 5.3 percent in low-wage industries. The average for all industries was down 3.1 percent.

One in five New Yorkers report being behind in rent. A full 30 percent say they're struggling just to cover household expenses. Even as the job market tightens nationally in the recovery, New York City lags behind: Its unemployment rate stands at 9.4 percent, more than twice the national average.

You can feign anger over the phrase "low-skilled," or you can face the cruel reality that the city's shutdown has harmed the very people whose honor these tweeters insist they're defending. Call them whatever you want. Just open the city back up so they can survive.

NEXT: Don't Make Every Day January 6

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  1. I posit that being a congress-critter like AOC is a low-skilled job. How much training or aptitude does it take to sit in a chair and punch the voting button?

    1. Trump tried to take their voting buttons away. Do you even 1/6?

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    2. making millions of people believe you feared for your body and life when in reality you were hiding in a bathroom where nobody knew where you were takes immeasurable skill.

      1. Yes, zero is very difficult to measure. 🙂

    3. Even a bartender can do it.

  2. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) weighed in on Twitter: "The suggestion that any job is 'low skill' is a myth perpetuated by wealthy interests to justify inhumane working conditions, little/no healthcare, and low wages.

    More proof that Cortez is a childmind.

    1. Being a Congresscritter is apparently a low skill job, since even AOC can do it.

      1. Well, there aren't actually any job requirements. It could be a no skill job if the voters want to put someone with no skills in office.

  3. Socialists can't handle the truth

  4. Plus being a waitress has made me and many others *better* at our jobs than those who've never known that life.

    And she's still searching for the Molotov Cocktail recipe in her bartender's guide.

    1. I wonder why she isn't still being a waitress if it's so great. She couldn't be more elitist if she tried.

  5. >>urged local white-collar workers to start returning to the office a few days a week

    which days of the week will the streets be flurona-free?

    1. Flurona is always free. Have your neighbors been charging you a fee for exposing you to flurona?

  6. Twitter is destroying us.

  7. "The reason "low-skill" jobs typically have low wages is a basic Econ 101 matter of supply and demand. "

    That explains why famed Econ-Grad-turned-bartender AOC completely misunderstood the concept.

    Boston U should either rescind her degree or close that department. It's terrible publicity.

  8. Who cares about Twitter

  9. People can wash their own fucking dishes, and cook their own food, and eat at home.

    A libertarian stance, in my view, would be that the incidentally discovered viability of a remote economy during the pandemic is actually a boon to the economy. The home office permits people to live all over the country, thereby reducing stress on overpopulated city centers and lowering the price of rent. Low skilled jobs will be replaced by high skilled jobs. Having a widely available market of potential candidates creates more opportunities for people everywhere.

    Why are we squelching progress? To protect dish washers?

    Oh shit, I forgot. This logic only applies to the retrograde manufacturing jobs that are "never coming back." Dishwashers? Shit, may as well ask for the return of the horse and buggy, right?

    Reason's internally consistent libertarianism is laudable.

    1. Shame on you. I have it on good authority that the team at Reason cares deeply about principals.

      1. "The uneducated, slack jawed white factory worker can go suck a dick because those jobs rightly belong in China, but please, for the love of God, let's get everybody back into the city pronto and ditch the economic efficiency of remote work because otherwise Juan won't be able to wash dishes."

        -libertarians

        1. Can’t go out to dinner without those vile plebs to do the dirty work can they?

          1. This is yet another example of Reason selling liberty in terms of social justice. Adams is right on this point, but he is right for the wrong reason.

            Liberty is its own justification. The libertarian position should be "the government has no business shutting people inside their homes or prohibiting them from traveling or going to work."

            It is literally that simple.

            Instead, the argument is "the lockdowns are bad because they hurt poor low skilled workers." It is an irrelevant point. The lockdowns would be bad even if low skilled workers were making out like bandits. When liberty starts being couched in terms of utilitarianism, it vanishes. That's how we got lockdowns in the first place, in case they haven't noticed --- and it does not seem like they have.

    2. So people with low skills will be shit out of luck?

  10. The upside for these outraged politicians is that the more people are hurting economically the more they are likely to support government assistance.

  11. Poor bastard, this Adams guy is gonna be portrayed by the NYT press just like David Dinkins. Just watch.

    Bring back Howard Stern to NYC radio immediately. 🙂

    (anyone who lived in the NYC metro area when Dinkins was mayor will get the reference)

  12. Yeah, well, broadband internet should fundamentally change the game on Adams. And not in a way he should be very happy about. That accountant in an office space he was talking about? Whether it occurs to him or not, he very well may not have been in New York City because gosh, he just loved living in the Big Apple! He was there because that was where his job was. And his chance to be in that job somewhere else was very remote. But, broadband has fundamentally changed that for a lot of those white collar workers in finance or advertising or IT or law (for example), that they always thought were a captive audience. And that's going to mean that New York City is going to have to start competing for those peoples' residency on the value proposition of living in New York. If there's one person this might actually be worse news for than Eric Adams, it's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her entire schtick revolves around excoriating those people, who just happen to foot the bill for the city's largesse to her favored constituencies. It's going to be awfully hard for her to play Eva Peron when the people the city relies upon to pay for all of her schemes have decamped for Florida or the Carolinas or Texas or Tennessee.

    Besides, Mr. Shackford, you're just writing this because you want to sleep with AOC. 😀

    1. Never sleep with someone crazier than you are.

    2. By way of example, my company actually expanded during the pandemic.

      Why? Because we ditched the expensive offices (not without a fight) and saved everyone a nagging commute. The result? Productivity increased, revenues increased, and we hired seven new employees. Everyone got a nice bonus this year.

      Granted, the Subway in our building closed down, and the guy making sandwiches is probably out of a job.

      So, what do we do? Get another office? Fire the seven people we hired?

      The government put its thumb on the scale, and people adapted. Some for the worse, some for the better. Don't blame us.

      1. Yeah, God forbid we use our time for leisure or self-improvement instead of wasting it commuting to offices that are located in suffocatingly expensive areas, simply because of the cache of having a fancy address.

    3. My wife and I (attorney and architect) currently reside in Chicago. If there is any good to be had from this pandemic, it's that it has shown employers that many professions can be reliably performed remotely. This has allowed us to appeal to our employers to allow us to work remotely full-time and in perpetuity. As such, we are moving to Tennessee within the next two months (already under contract). Good riddance to Chicago and the cesspool that is its political landscape.

  13. What about all them folks with PhDs or other advanced degrees who work as baristas and Uber drivers? Maybe that’s who AOC is talking about.

  14. What could be more low skilled than posting photos of shit you buy on instagram?

    1. Voting.

  15. It's almost like they don't even care what the actual result of the policy is as long as they can claim to be for the little guy.

  16. "Plus being a waitress has made me and many others *better* at our jobs than those who've never known that life."

    Evidently not since she has shit for brains and believes in the economic equivalent of flat-earth theory.

  17. For the most accurate, reliable and eye popping report on what really happened at the Capitol last year on Jan 5 and 6, go to
    https://www.revolver.news/2021/12/damning-new-details-massive-web-unindicted-operators-january-6/

    Reason has refused to cover this story. But it appears increasingly certain that FBI agents and/or paid informants planned and executed the original breach of the Capitol grounds, quickly removed the barriers so none of the protestors realized they were illegally entering the Capitol grounds, and then urged/ushered (with identical bull horns) thousands of naive Trump supporters to walk into the Capitol grounds.

    So far, the FBI hasn't charged any of the six ringleaders of the Jan 6 Capitol breach. The only rationale explanation is that all six (and likely more) were all working for the FBI.

    1. I have been so impressed with the Revolver's reporting on this.

    2. Is the new question, "Who is Ray Epps?"

  18. AOC: "Let them eat cake"

  19. It's amusing to see him get attacked by the left, when he's basically the sort of Democrat they desperately need on the national level that isn't completely bonkers

  20. [T]he media air is thick to the point of suffocation with claims that the nation "now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss," driven there by a major political party whose "unofficial litmus test" is believing falsely that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

    How about falsely believing that there are white supremacists everywhere, biding our time until we can kill all minorities and LGBT-folk, subjugate all women to being barefoot in the kitchen while we make a white America?

    1. [T]he media air is thick to the point of suffocation with claims that the nation "now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss," driven there by a major political party whose "unofficial litmus test" is believing falsely that the 2016 presidential election was stolen.

      Fixed it for you...

  21. "Plus being a waitress has made me and many others *better* at our jobs "

    Certainly not at being a congress critter. Unless you also did jack squat as a waitress.

  22. Nothing makes guilt-ridden liberals madder than making them feel guilty.

    1. Although taking away their slaves pissed them off quite a bit.

  23. "Plus being a waitress has made me and many others *better* at our jobs"
    Well I can't imagine how AOC could possibly be any worse at her job as a congress critter.

  24. AOC is insufferable. Must have been a terrible waitress.

  25. Maybe AOC is referring to the baristas and Uber drivers with Ivy/advanced degrees, There are lots of those types in NYC and they are her core supporters.

  26. Wow! You would have thought low skilled, low wage earners would have had HUGE BANKROLLS to get them through the pandemic shutdowns!!!! (sarc)

  27. New York City's new mayor, Eric Adams

    For the first time - in a very long time - there might be hope for decent governance of the city of New York. Good luck Mr. Adams!

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