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Mask Mandate? In a Montana Town, It ‘Puts Us at Odds With Customers’

HAMILTON, Mont. — Outside River Rising Bakery sits an older gentleman, his face uncovered. He’s here every morning, greeting customers as he drinks his coffee and reads. Inside, people mill about, waiting to order. A group of moms chat at a corner table.

The employees wear masks, but patrons are not required to. Most don’t. It feels almost normal. As if the pandemic had never happened.

Half a block away in Hamilton, at Big Creek Coffee Roasters, most customers don’t go inside; instead they wait to order at a makeshift to-go window. There are a lot of strollers and Lululemon tights, and most people in the line are wearing a mask. If anyone did go inside, wearing one would be mandatory.

One Montana block, two small businesses — and two different decisions about asking customers to wear masks.

This summer, the governor, Steve Bullock, mandated face coverings in public spaces to combat a spike in Covid-19 cases. But the sheriff in Hamilton, backed up by the Ravalli County commissioners, elected not to enforce the order, saying individual rights took priority. That decision left small businesses stuck in the middle of a months-long national conflict over mask wearing as they try to keep staff safe and their doors open without alienating customers.

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Credit…Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times

For the owner of River Rising, Nicki Ransier, the commissioners’ decision made her life easier: “It kind of took some pressure off of us, because we’re not having that confrontation with our customers when they walk in.”

Before the governor’s order, Ms. Ransier asked her staff to wear masks, but a few customers berated her employees — some of whom are in high school — over the decision. One customer told the staff that they were “bending the knee to tyranny” by following Mr. Bullock’s order.

Other patrons wanted Ms. Ransier to flatly require masks for all and install costly plexiglass barriers. She felt she couldn’t please anyone, so she decided her policy would focus on what she could control: employees. She would let customers choose, but ask her 14 workers to wear masks even though it can be hot and miserable.

“We have a lot of older customers,” Ms. Ransier said. “And in my heart, I was just like, ‘What if I were to get Bob — the man who sits out front every day — or someone sick?’ I would just feel horrible.”

But the commissioners’ move frustrated Randy Lint, the owner of Big Creek Coffee Roasters. He thought the governor’s order would put an end to mask conflicts. Instead, he said, the commissioners’ decision “puts us at odds with customers.”

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Credit…Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times

“Dealing with fallout from stressed customers has been one of the hardest parts of the pandemic,” Mr. Lint said.

He’s thankful for the to-go window and the reprieve it offers — at least while the weather is nice. He added a propane heater to extend the outdoor season, but once winter hits and customers come indoors, he knows his policy will be an issue again. Still, he said, he can’t risk having any of his seven staff members contract Covid-19. If one did, he would have to shut down for two weeks so everyone could quarantine. Mr. Lint said he wasn’t sure he could survive that experience emotionally.

“The danger is that it will all crush my spirit,” he said.

It’s a fear based in reality: Down the block, Naps Grill, one of the town’s busiest restaurants, recently chose to close temporarily after several workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Complicating the choice for business owners and customers alike is that the pandemic has been slow to affect Ravalli County, which is part of the Bitterroot Valley, an approximately 100-mile strip of isolated southwestern Montana. The county is 2,400 square miles — nearly as large as Delaware — but it has had just over 300 cases of the coronavirus and four deaths from Covid-19 since March. More than one-quarter of those cases have cropped up in the past week and caused several local schools to shut down for multiple days. And with the area’s reliance on tourists for hunting season and an influx of pandemic refugees from more populous states, anything could happen this fall.

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Credit…Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times

The town, with just under 5,000 residents, is home to Rocky Mountain Laboratories, where researchers are trying to develop a vaccine for Covid-19. It is also the county seat, luring many to shop and do business, and is a gateway to serious trout streams and other outdoor recreation. That means everyone is mixing on Main Street: white collar, blue collar, wealthy ranchers, scientists, lifelong bartenders, multigeneration residents, tourists, hunters, kayakers, conservatives and liberals.

There is an uneasy truce between newcomers with high-paying jobs who are looking for the Montana lifestyle and longtime Bitterrooters, whose wages have been slow to rise even as the median home price in the county has risen 60 percent since January 2017. The longtimers feel pushed out.

“We are scrupulously apolitical,” Mr. Lint said, who has lived in Hamilton for 25 years. “It’s a survival mechanism. We have a lot of old Bitterrooters who wouldn’t come in here otherwise. We just try to give a good drink and kindness.”

That’s the refrain up and down the block. Most owners, whatever their politics, keep their business’ social media and public statements staunchly neutral. But masks have become a very public symbol onto which people imprint their own assumptions.

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Credit…Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times

“It’s quite exhausting,” said Shawn Wathen, a co-owner of Chapter One Book Store, which is cater-corner from Big Creek. “If we could go one day and not have to talk about masks — that would be just quite astonishing.”

“The governor’s order was supposed to handle that for us so that we could focus on staying open as a business, right?” added the other owner, Mara Lynn Luther. “And that’s so frustrating.”

Chapter One has been a staple in Hamilton since 1974, and both Ms. Luther and Mr. Wathen were employees before becoming the owners. They jokingly call themselves bartenders — because customers bring them their biggest problems. It’s a real exercise in trust, for example, when someone asks them to order a title on mental health or how to save their marriage. They love the hours they spend talking about books and big ideas with shoppers.

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Credit…Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times
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Credit…Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times

Recently, an elderly woman came in and lashed out when she was told that the store required masks. Instead of kicking out her longtime customer or using harsh words, Ms. Luther asked if the woman was OK. The two chatted, and Ms. Luther learned that the woman, unable to see facial expressions, was genuinely frightened to see people in masks. Now when the woman comes in, Ms. Luther said, she masks without complaint.

“Do we always share the same views and values as our whole community? No,” Ms. Luther said. “But for years we’ve just kept these lines of communication open and really made an effort to never make someone feel like we shut the door on them.”

Across the street at Big Sky Candy, the owners, Michele DeGroot and her daughter, Marlena Fehr, made a different decision: They are not asking patrons to mask while browsing the chocolates, truffles, toffees, fudge and caramels. The pair have been making the goodies from scratch for 19 years, and they love having people who came in as kids bring their own children now.

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Credit…Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times
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Credit…Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times

That community connection is partly why they decided not to enforce the governor’s mask mandate: They didn’t want anyone to feel bad in a place that is supposed to bring joy. So instead of the “masks required” sign, a note on their front door says they won’t be enforcing the order and adds, in part: “BASICALLY, it’s up to you. You do what you feel is right for you. We will not judge you. The rest of the world does enough judging. We don’t need that here. We love each and every one of you.”

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Credit…Lido Vizzutti for The New York Times

That’s how Ms. Ransier of River Rising feels about her customers: She loves them all. She cries when talking about how much they mean to her, and how Covid helped show her how much the cafe meant to them. When the pandemic hit, she said, her “old curmudgeon regulars” were the first to step up and offer cash donations to help keep her afloat.

“I didn’t even think they really cared, as long as we have their pastry,” she said. “But those ranchers, you know, they aren’t going to be wearing their heart on their sleeve. There’s always something good that comes out of everything.”

It’s bittersweet because she recently sold the business to her landlord, Fenn Nelson. The two had been in discussions since before the pandemic, and the timing finally worked out.

So far, Mr. Nelson is not planning any significant changes to the menu, the staff or the mask policy. At his other business, the microbrewery Higherground Brewing Company, he strongly encourages customers to wear masks inside but doesn’t make staff insist.

“At one level, I feel like I should push for more for masks,” Mr. Nelson said. “But on the other side, I feel like, at what cost? For us to survive, we need everyone as customers.”

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Remote but Inclusive for Years, and Now Showing Other Companies How

From her home in Beaverton, Ore., Jamie Davila leads a team of eight engineers in seven states for the technology start-up Ultranauts. Like millions of other people during these work-from-home times, she relies on popular communication tools like Zoom and Slack.

But Ms. Davila and Ultranauts also work remotely in ways that make them different from most companies. They follow a distinctive set of policies and practices to promote diversity and inclusion among employees.

All video meetings have closed captioning, for workers who prefer to absorb information in text. Meeting agendas are distributed in advance so people who are uncomfortable speaking up can contribute in writing beforehand. Employees are asked daily for feedback, like whether they believe their strengths are valued and if they feel lonely at work.

“The whole idea is to create a safe space that allows everyone to be heard,” Ms. Davila, 36, said.

Ultranauts has been working for years on the challenges confronting so many companies during the pandemic, and probably beyond: how to effectively work remotely, make progress toward diversity and inclusion goals, and build a strong organizational culture.

The company, founded in 2013 by two former roommates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has had a remote work force from Day 1. It was also founded to use the untapped talent of autistic people, who often think and process information differently from the rest of the population. Seventy-five percent of Ultranauts employees are on the autism spectrum.

So the small start-up may offer lessons for corporate America in how to hire, manage and motivate far-flung employees, whose work and careers can suffer without the face time and hallway conversations of office life.

“Ultranauts’ purposeful construction of a workplace that really supports people is extraordinary,” said Susanne Bruyere, academic director of the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University. “Its techniques and tools could absolutely be applied more broadly.”

The start-up’s customers include big companies like AIG, BNY Mellon and Cigna. It began with manual quality testing of websites and apps but has steadily moved to more advanced work like data-quality engineering, data analytics and automated software testing.

When the pandemic hit, Ultranauts, which is based in New York, lost business as a couple of large customers made cuts to conserve cash. But it quickly picked up new work from companies that are accelerating digital projects despite the downturn. The business now has 90 employees, up from 60 a year ago. Its goal is to expand to 200 in two years.

Ultranauts is backed by social-impact investors — which seek financial returns, but not windfalls — including The Disability Opportunity Fund, SustainVC, Wasabi Ventures and Moai Capital. They have invested $5.7 million so far.

The company insists its work force is a competitive advantage. The edge, it says, is not so much that autistic brains are wired for computing tasks but that people on the autism spectrum are a diverse group.

One person may recognize patterns quickly, while another has a more measured cognitive style but arrives at different patterns and ways to fix code. The key lies in harnessing the varied talents of teams.

Meetings are recorded, transcribed and archived not only to accommodate workers who prefer reading to listening but also to foster a more open organization. That extends to the weekly meetings of the six-person leadership team at Ultranauts. The notes of those sessions, including the decisions made and reasons behind them, are published on the companywide Slack channel.

“It is a lot more transparency than most people in business are comfortable with,” said Art Shectman, a co-founder and the company’s president.

Ultranauts’ leaders believe their style of wide-open, explicit communication — no unwritten rules — could benefit any company. Ultranauts is giving away a valued homegrown software product, Biodex, as part of a test to see how widely its tools and practices might take root in the corporate mainstream.

Each employee at Ultranauts has a Biodex profile that states the person’s work, communication and feedback preferences. What is your typical response time to messages — a few minutes, a few hours, same day? If a colleague has constructive criticism, how do you want to receive the feedback — orally or in writing?

Each morning, Biodex sends out a bot message with two questions: How “interactive” — ready to communicate with others — are you feeling today? What’s your energy level today? Workers answer on a 1-to-10 scale.

Rajesh Anandan, a co-founder and the chief executive of Ultranauts, describes Biodex as “a quick-start guide for how to work with a person.”

Ultranauts is letting teams at about a dozen organizations, from big corporations to start-ups, try out a test version of Biodex. If trial runs with outsiders go well, Ultranauts plans to make Biodex a free download on the Slack app store by the end of the year. Other Ultranauts apps, like its program for polling worker sentiment and well-being, would follow.

“We’ve built an engine that unlocks opportunity for people who haven’t had a fair shot before,” Mr. Anandan said. “But if we only do that for ourselves, it won’t have much of an impact.”

Mr. Anandan is a former Bain consultant who switched gears and careers. In 2003, he went to work for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and later started an incubator for social ventures at UNICEF. Both he and Mr. Shectman, a software engineering consultant, had known since their M.I.T. days autistic people who struggled to find work.

Many autistic people do well with the structured coursework of school, earning undergraduate and graduate university degrees. But they often stumble at the first hurdle into the job market — the traditional job interview. They tend to struggle with social interaction, speaking informally and reading the nonverbal cues of communication.

That was the case for Leslie Reis. She holds a master’s degree in software engineering, but had not had a full-time job until Ultranauts hired her last year.

Writing, Ms. Reis explained, is how she communicates best. “For a lot of organizations, that was perceived as something that would be a drawback,” she said in an email, “rather than a way for me to participate more fully.”

Ultranauts does not use work experience to filter job candidates. The company does conduct structured interviews, but hiring is largely based on skills assessments that it has developed to measure traits like the ability to work through new problems and take guidance and apply it. Work simulations are another test.

Tulco, an investment firm in Pittsburgh, hired Ultranauts this year to do data-quality work. Tulco invests in traditional businesses that it thinks can become more efficient and profitable by applying data science and artificial intelligence, but creating those A.I. algorithms requires sifting through troves of messy data.

Ultranauts’ work has impressed Matthew Marolda, executive vice president for data science at Tulco. On one project, its team cleaned up and loaded a vast amount of information into an A.I. model with remarkable speed, days instead of weeks, he said.

“This is a work force with inherent strengths,” Mr. Marolda said. “They’re really good at pattern recognition and really good at detail work.”

Seeking new pools of skilled workers, and prodded by advocacy groups, several companies in recent years have begun programs to recruit and employ autistic workers, including SAP, Microsoft, Ernst & Young and JPMorgan Chase.

Ultranauts is one of a handful of small companies and nonprofits in Europe and the United States that employ mainly autistic workers for jobs in technology. Others include Specialisterne, Auticon, Daivergent and Aspiritech. Ultranauts stands out, experts say, for working entirely remotely from the outset and for developing its carefully crafted combination of digital tools and workplace practices.

Its culture has certainly resonated with Ms. Davila, who is autistic and was hired four years ago, with no formal training in computing. Since then, she has mastered not only programming languages but also skills as a manager.

Ultranauts has also been her ladder to the middle class. “Before I got the job at Ultranauts, I was on food stamps,” Ms. Davila recalled. “Now, I own my own house. And it’s a nice house in a nice neighborhood.”

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How United Airlines Is Trying to Plan Around a Pandemic

When the coronavirus pandemic wiped out travel in the spring, United Airlines slashed its flight schedule, salted away aircraft in the New Mexico desert and parked planes at hangars around the country.

That was the easy part.

Now, with what is normally the peak summer season behind it and travel proceeding in fits and starts, the airline is continuing to fine-tune every facet of its business, from maintenance to flight planning, as it tries to predict where a wary public will fly, a challenge even in the best of times.

“We can really throw away the crystal ball, which was hazy to begin with,” said Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president for domestic network planning.

This week, the airline announced a $1.8 billion loss during the third quarter, with revenues down 78 percent compared to the same period a year ago. While United said it was ready to “turn the page” from survival to rebuilding, it said it didn’t expect a recovery to begin in earnest until 2022.

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Credit…Lucy Hewett for The New York Times
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Credit…Lucy Hewett for The New York Times

Passenger volumes for U.S. airlines are down about 65 percent, according to an industry group, and major carriers have taken on enormous debt as they lose billions of dollars each month. After hopes for a second congressional rescue package faded last month, United furloughed more than 13,000 workers and American Airlines furloughed 19,000.

But while every airline is struggling, each struggles in its own way. United relies far more than its rivals on international travel, which is deeply depressed and is expected to take far longer than domestic travel to bounce back. Lucrative business travel will be slow to return, too, and the airline said this week that it had amassed more than $19 billion in cash and other available funds to cope with the downturn.

“We’ve got 12 to 15 months of pain, sacrifice and difficulty ahead,” United’s chief executive, Scott Kirby, said on an earnings conference call on Thursday. “But we have done what it takes in the initial phases to have confidence — it’s really about confidence — in getting through the crisis and to the other side.”

In navigating that path, the airline has focused on finding savings while positioning itself to serve the few passengers who still want to fly. When the virus devastated travel in March and April, the airline took hundreds of planes out of circulation. Among the first to go were twin-aisle jets used for international flights, which dropped early as countries closed borders. Single-aisle planes — the kind used for domestic routes — followed soon after.

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Credit…Lucy Hewett for The New York Times

About 150 planes were sent to long-term storage in Roswell, N.M. — yes, that Roswell — where the dry conditions are better suited for long-term aircraft preservation. Many others were parked at United’s hub airports in and near cities including Chicago, Washington and Newark, where technicians could more easily get them back into service if needed.

Since July, United has brought back more than 150 of the planes that the airline or its regional carriers had grounded, it said on Thursday. About 450 are still stashed away, but must be maintained in a way that allows flexibility.

To get it right, Tom Doxey, United’s senior vice president for technical operations, and his team consult models created by computer scientists and solicit guidance from maintenance crews. Generally, two considerations loom large: how soon a plane will need substantial maintenance and the likelihood that it will be among the first to start flying again.

“If you have an aircraft that maybe is less likely to come back soon, you kind of want it at the back of the parking lot,” Mr. Doxey said. “It goes into prolonged storage and it probably goes to a desert location.”

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Credit…Lucy Hewett for The New York Times

As demand for domestic flights picks up, United will most likely put single-aisle Airbus A320s or Boeing 737s to use, so it keeps many at the ready, he said. The same goes for the Boeing 777s or 767s, which can be used for international travel, whenever it rebounds. Planes that recently underwent intensive maintenance are kept closer at hand, too, than those that may soon be due for a deeper examination.

Fortunately for Mr. Doxey and United, some travel trends have started to emerge, making his job easier. Most of the people still flying are staying within the country, visiting friends and relatives or vacationing outdoors. If airline planners are right, travel to powdery ski slopes in the West may pick up soon, too. Those flights would put United’s smaller single-aisle planes to use.

Planning routes in such lean times can be incredibly complex, with airlines weighing a range of variables on limited resources. Not only do the right planes need to be in the right places, but planners must be sure that they have the gate agents, baggage handlers, flight attendants and pilots needed for each flight — out and back — all while trying to accommodate erratic travel trends.

To predict winter demand, Mr. Gupta and his domestic planning team consulted with resort operators and staff members near ski towns to gauge how many flights the company should add to snowy destinations. Based on recent and historical trends, they also added an unusual mix of direct flights to Florida this winter from the Northeast and the Midwest. On Thursday, United began offering preflight coronavirus tests to customers headed from San Francisco to Hawaii to help them avoid the state’s quarantine requirements and hopefully increase sales. It is also planning to expand service on dozens of routes to tropical destinations near and within the United States and resuming flights on nearly 30 international routes.

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Credit…Lucy Hewett for The New York Times

With few people flying internationally, though, United has less need for its wide-body jets, which account for a quarter of its fleet. But it has found a use for some of those bigger planes: When demand for air cargo spiked, United put its larger, fuel-efficient 787s to work hauling goods.

Before the pandemic, the airline operated more than 300 daily flights abroad, but that figure dipped to 11 during the depths of the crisis. Next month, the airline plans to operate more than 150 international departures each day. To understand when and how that demand might recover, Patrick Quayle, who oversees international network planning for United, and his team track a range of indicators, including national travel restrictions, the travel habits of dual citizens and the economic ties between countries.

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Credit…Lucy Hewett for The New York Times
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Credit…Lucy Hewett for The New York Times

“It’s a bit of playing United Nations and looking at alliances and looking at passport data, and it’s a bit of gut feeling, to be quite candid,” he said.

As difficult as planning has been, it is becoming even harder. The federal stimulus passed in March, the CARES Act, gave passenger airlines $25 billion to help keep tens of thousands employed. It also made life a little easier for network planners, allowing them to worry less about whether a flight would cover labor costs, a major expense, and freeing them up to make last-minute changes knowing that there were far more employees available to work than needed. The aid expired last month, though, and prospects of another round of funding have largely faded.

There may be some reason for hope, though. The Transportation Security Administration screened nearly one million people at airport checkpoints on Sunday, the highest number since mid-March, though it was still less than 40 percent of the number screened on the same weekday last year. Whatever happens in the months to come, Mr. Doxey said, United is prepared: “We have a plan in place.”

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Credit…Lucy Hewett for The New York Times
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Unemployment Claims Rise Anew in Latest Sign of Economic Distress

The American economy is showing fresh signs of deceleration, hammered by layoffs, a surge in coronavirus cases and the lack of fresh aid from Washington.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 886,000 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, an increase of nearly 77,000 from the previous week. Adjusted for seasonal variations, the total was 898,000.

The rise follows the announcement of layoffs by major companies including Disney and United Airlines in recent weeks and an impasse between Republicans and Democrats over another round of aid for the economy. A recent jump in coronavirus infections, principally in the Midwest and Western states, only added to the grim outlook.

“It’s discouraging,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “The labor market appears to be stalled, which underscores the need for new stimulus as quickly as possible.”

The economy rebounded strongly in late spring and early summer as lockdowns eased in many parts of the country and employers brought back workers from furloughs. But those recalls have slowed, even as federal stimulus efforts have waned.

In past recessions, 800,000 new claims for state unemployment insurance in a week would have been extraordinary. But over the last 30 weeks, that figure has become a floor, not a ceiling.

The latest numbers “point to a lot of churn in the labor market, and it appears the rate of firings has picked up,” said Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays.

More layoffs are expected as sectors like leisure and hospitality struggle. In some states, restaurants have been able to salvage some business by serving diners outside, but that option will disappear in many areas as winter approaches.

“The course of the virus determines the course of the economy,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton. “You can’t fully reopen with the contagion so high.”

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Credit…John Bazemore/Associated Press

A federal program set to expire at the end of the year, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, is seeing a surge in new applications. It provides 13 weeks of extended benefits after the end of regular state payments, which typically last 26 weeks.

In the week that ended Sept. 26, the most recent period with available data, nearly 2.8 million people were getting the extended benefits, a jump from fewer than two million the previous week. That increase was roughly equal to the decline in the number collecting state benefits.

But receiving those benefits, which are administered by the states, isn’t so easy, experts say. “The transition from regular state benefits to P.E.U.C. is not going smoothly,” said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning research group.

In some places, recipients of state unemployment benefits haven’t been notified of their eligibility for the federal extension, and aging computer systems have slowed the processing of applications.

If the program is not extended by Congress, “we’re going to see a disaster,” Ms. Shierholz said. “There will be a huge drop in living standards and an increase in poverty as well as downward pressure on economic growth.”

For workers facing the end of regular benefits, the extended payments have proven to be a lifeline.

Jared Gaxiola of Torrance, Calif., was laid off from his job as a freelance lighting technician in March, after live events were canceled across the country. When his state benefits ran out in mid-September, he was able to get a 13-week extension through Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

Mr. Gaxiola, 35, hopes to find a job by the time the federal payments run out in December. But with entertainment work still scarce, he worries about how he will pay his rent in the new year.

“I could probably borrow money from my sister if I needed to,” Mr. Gaxiola said. “But I really don’t want to have to do that.”

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Credit…Jose A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Some workers who are caught between an unforgiving job market and uncertain prospects for help from the government have taken matters into their own hands.

For three years, Lea Polizzi worked more than 50 hours a week as a nanny and a freelance photographer in New York City. But in March, when the pandemic hit, the family she worked for on the Upper East Side left the city, and all of her photography gigs dried up.

Ms. Polizzi, 24, filed for unemployment benefits and started receiving about $200 a week from the state, as well as a $600 federal supplement. Those payments enabled her to meet expenses — including the $1,100 rent for her apartment in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn — while she looked for a job.

But the $600 payments expired at the end of July. Since then, Ms. Polizzi has used about 75 percent of her savings — roughly $4,000 — to pay bills.

“That was the money I had saved to use for vacations or emergency funds,” she said. “I was going to buy a new camera. And then as soon as everything started going down, I had to put everything on hold, because I knew that I was going to end up having to pay rent with it eventually.”

Ms. Polizzi recently received $900 from Lost Wages Assistance, a short-term supplement from the federal government, and she expects one more payment from the program in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, she is making masks, lingerie, hats and jewelry and selling the items online at $25 to $200 apiece.

She has made about 60 sales. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it work and just pay all my bills through my art ventures,” she said.

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Despite the challenging picture over all, a few workers have been able to find better-paying positions, securing shelter in the coronavirus storm.

Before the pandemic struck, Chloe Ezi was a lifeguard at a public aquatic center in Powder Springs, Ga. It was part-time work that paid $11 an hour, but she was able to bring in an extra $300 a week by teaching private swim lessons.

In March, Ms. Ezi was sent home during coronavirus lockdowns. Because she continued to be paid half her wages — about $75 a week — the pool operators told her that she was not eligible to file for unemployment benefits.

Ms. Ezi, 19, was called back to work in May, but because virus restrictions kept her from teaching private swim lessons, she was able to bring in only about $150 a week — barely enough to cover her $280 monthly car insurance bill, her $80 cellphone bill, and $100 monthly payments to Penn Foster College, where she is completing a dental assistant certificate program, plus groceries and other necessities.

“That’s not a lot to live off of,” Ms. Ezi said. “I was zeroing out my paycheck every month.”

To save money, Ms. Ezi lived with her boyfriend in his parents’ house.

“We’re all just a big family living in this house together,” she said. “It can get pretty stressful living with so many people like this.”

Tired of living in such close quarters, Ms. Ezi began looking for a job that would pay more. In August, she found a full-time position as a sales representative at a store that sells birding equipment, where she makes $13 an hour plus tips. She remains on the staff at the pool, where she still picks up an occasional shift.

Now she and her boyfriend can afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Smyrna, Ga. They moved in on Wednesday.

“My new job allowed us to finally get our own place,” she said. “I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right now.”

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Their Bosses Asked Them to Lead Diversity Reviews. Guess Why.

Last June, Deana Jean received a strange request on LinkedIn: A software company wanted her to lead a diversity, equity and inclusion program for their executive suite.

Ms. Jean does not do D.E.I. work. Nor does her LinkedIn profile suggest as much. Her background is in educational technology sales and leadership coaching.

She is, by the way, Black. After a short back-and-forth with the company, Ms. Jean, who is based in New York, learned that she’d been recommended by a former colleague — a person she barely knew. She declined the contract, but asked if the company needed a sales consultant.

“After that, there was no response,” she said. “There’s never a response. On one side, they’re looking at me as a Black woman, which means I’m automatically equipped to deliver diversity, equity and inclusion. But then on the other side, that is the only thing you see me as able to do.”

For many Black professionals, the experience of being asked — or even required — to lead or participate in a company’s diversity and inclusion work simply because of their race is an uncomfortable ritual. Ms. Jean said she has been in such situations before, often because she has been the only Black person in the room.

As the corporate world continues its attempt to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, such requests threaten to undermine the inclusion efforts they’re supposed to promote. Bosses, managers and colleagues — well-intentioned or otherwise — often fail to recognize the emotional and professional stakes of giving Black employees D.E.I. tasks, like reviewing or writing company statements, leading anti-racism meetings or heading employee resource groups, especially when it’s not their area of expertise.

Many companies seek out consulting firms that specialize in D.E.I., including Awaken, the Dignitas Agency and Inclusion Strategy Solutions. Michelle Kim, the chief executive of Awaken, based in Oakland, Calif., said her company has been so inundated with requests that she created a database of Black-owned agencies to manage the overflow. The firms sometimes field requests for help from salaried Black workers whose employers have asked them to review race-related issues on their own.

“To assume that every Black person has the skills and desire and knowledge for this work is tokenization,” Ms. Kim said.

Paula Edgar, a partner at Inclusion Strategy Solutions, agreed. “I find it ironic because companies outsource expertise for everything else,” she said. “You’re not going to say, ‘We have an accounting need, does anyone know math?’”

For years, diversity, equity and inclusion issues have often been treated as a sideline or add-on in corporate America. During the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic, D.E.I.-related job offerings declined at twice the rate as overall job postings, according to a report in mid-July from Glassdoor. Many new businesses don’t make those issues a priority, only taking them up when the companies reach a certain size. By that point, racism and discrimination can already be baked in.

“Diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism should be embedded into the DNA of organizations in a fully realized way,” said Kim Crowder, a consultant based in Indianapolis, who specializes in such issues. But companies tend “to stuff D.E.I. into the corner and hand it over to HR or level it to employee resource groups.”

Often, employers don’t know the difference between diversity, equity and inclusion. “The No. 1 question everyone is asking right now is, ‘How do we hire more people of color?’ or ‘How do we have more Black candidates in our pipeline?’” Ms. Kim said. That only addresses diversity; it ignores equity, equally distributing resources based on the specific needs of underrepresented groups; and inclusion, having real decision-making power. “We need to be specific about naming the problem we’re trying to solve and prescribing the right medicine,” Ms. Kim said. “That’s anti-racism training.”

Some D.E.I. consultants I spoke with said, essentially, more power to those Black employees who are happy to take on such assignments from their employers. But without proper boundaries, they said, people risk being taken advantage of.

Ms. Edgar laid out a list of questions for Black workers to consider before taking on those responsibilities: “What percentage of your time will be taken for this? How much will this benefit you — are you making the culture better, or will you have access to leadership to help your trajectory? Is there any compensation — vacation time, increase in pay or a bonus structure? Specifically for lawyers, is there credit to your required billable hours?”

Black employees must also consider whether they have the right emotional reserves, she added. “All eyes and expectations will be on you,” she said. And that could have lasting consequences.

Ms. Crowder used to work for a local government agency. Once, she said, she was asked to hire a replacement for one of her team members. But when Ms. Crowder tried to get her choice — a Black woman — the same salary as the woman’s white predecessor, she was questioned repeatedly about the candidate’s credentials and eventually, Ms. Crowder was sidelined. It wasn’t a unique experience, she said.

“When I tried to speak about my own experiences around racism within organizations, I was shunned and turned into an outcast,” Ms. Crowder said. “I was bullied out of the workplace and didn’t receive fair treatment, nor support or acknowledgment for my ideas and hard work.”

She said she decided to specialize in D.E.I. consulting. “I feel strongly that current employees should avoid and not be asked to become the ‘expert’ on diversity, equity and inclusion within their organizations,” Ms. Crowder said. “They are often not protected and don’t have the power to make changes.”

Untrained employees may also be unprepared to shoulder the emotional weight of the work. “I’m literally a therapist. They dump everything on,” said Jennifer Payne, a communications strategist whose company, Social Sovereign, is consulting on D.E.I. for companies in Michigan and Los Angeles. “I don’t have all the answers, and sometimes it is very emotionally draining. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis, a racial injustice movement. And at same time, everybody wants to ask questions about what is it like to be Black.”

Stacy Parson, a partner at Dignitas, which is based in Boise, Idaho, said Black employees need a chance to heal before they’re asked to help bring about change. “Answering those questions comes at a cost,” she said. “We’re talking about trauma. If we can recognize that witnessing a man getting killed on TV for no good reason is traumatic for Black people, then it’s traumatic for them to revisit it.”

So many companies have issued statements in support of Black Lives Matter that it’s easy for managers to believe that everyone on staff will be receptive to diversity efforts. That’s not the case. This summer, Ms. Payne said, employees of all races have asked her: “Are we supposed to be having these conversations in the workplace? I thought these topics were off limits, like religion and politics.”

That makes it easy for Black employees leading the diversity and inclusion efforts to end up on the receiving end of their colleagues’ confusion and frustration. Even their anger. “When you start digging into political differences, like Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter, this can be an ugly discussion,” said Lindsey D.G. Dates, a partner in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg, who has been asked to lead on diversity and inclusion efforts at the law firm. “So the risk that you run by having these discussions so publicly, is that you can be ostracized by colleagues, intentionally or unintentionally.”

Mr. Dates said he had taken on the work despite those risks. “I do not come to these conversations enthusiastically,” he said. “With that said, I do believe I have an obligation to advocate for people like me.”

Qhaurium Douglas, a lawyer and consultant in Oklahoma City, said she gave a categorical “no” when a colleague asked her to lead an educational workshop on the Black Lives Matter protests. She said she had seen other employees at her firm post articles on Twitter about the criminal records of police brutality victims. “As if that was a justification for a death sentence,” Ms. Douglas said.

She understood that her co-workers were uninformed, but she said she suspected they didn’t want to learn. “The willful ignorance was blatant,” she said.

Further, she worried that the conversation would devolve into a political debate, which she was not emotionally prepared to handle. “I didn’t want to contribute to that me vs. you dynamic,” she said. “Black Lives Matter is not a statement for you to disagree with or feel bad about or have to defend.”

Like Ms. Jean, Mr. Dates was approached on LinkedIn to give a talk about diversity and inclusion despite having no training in the field. The request came from a professional organization for in-house counsels, who had seen a post he’d written about systemic racism. He gave a lot of thought about whether to accept, and ultimately said yes.

But he decided to approach the presentation as a litigator. “In many ways, I was freer to make points that a diversity and inclusion professional cannot make,” he said. “It’s not their job to ostracize people but to bring people to the table.” Mr. Dates said he had a different objective: to kick out the table’s legs.

He approached the group as if he were building a legal case before a jury. Brick by brick, he said, he led them to the conclusion that American law firms are bastions for segregation and would remain so until more Black lawyers became capital partners. He wasn’t subtle; he named the hypothetical law firm in his talk Jim and Crow LLP. “I got a lot of surprised looks. A lot of stunned faces,” he said. But he said he believed his argument left an impression.

Mr. Dates said that diversity and inclusion professionals play an important role. His law firm is unusual in that one of its partners is an expert in the field. Her encouragement, he said, is why he decided to join a new committee addressing equity and inclusion at the firm.

“It’s uncomfortable to have these difficult conversations when you have not done the hard work of building relationships with the people you want to talk to,” he said. “But so many firms leave their Black lawyers in utter isolation to the point that it’s embarrassing for them to reach out to them for their own self- interested purposes.”

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U.S. Unemployment Claims Remained Elevated Last Week

Applications for jobless benefits remained high last week, even as the collapse of stimulus talks in Washington raised fears of a new wave of layoffs.

Unemployment filings have fallen swiftly from their peak of more than six million last spring. But that progress has recently stalled at a level far higher than the worst weeks of past recessions. That pattern continued last week, the Labor Department said Thursday: More than 800,000 Americans filed new applications for state benefits, before adjusting for seasonal variations, roughly in line with where the total has been since early August.

“The level of claims is still staggeringly high,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor. “We’re seeing evidence that the recovery is slowing down, whether it’s in slowing payroll gains or in the sluggish improvement in jobless claims.”

That slowdown comes as trillions of dollars in government aid to households and businesses has dried up. Prospects for a new stimulus package, already dubious in a divided Washington, appeared to fall apart this week when President Trump said he was pulling out of negotiations. Economists across the ideological spectrum warn that the loss of federal help will lead to more layoffs and business failures, and more pain for families.

The continued high level of jobless claims, combined with large monthly job gains, highlights the remarkable level of churn still roiling the U.S. labor market. Companies are continuing to rehire workers as they reopen, even as other companies cut jobs in response to still-depressed demand for goods and services. The result is a job market that is being pulled in two directions at once — and economic data that can appear to tell contradictory stories.

Adding to the challenge for analysts and forecasters, the pandemic has thrown the data itself into disarray. For the second week in a row, the jobless claims data carried a Golden-State-size asterisk: California last month announced that it would temporarily stop accepting new unemployment applications while it addressed a huge processing backlog and installed procedures to weed out fraud.

In the absence of up-to-date data, the Labor Department is assuming California’s claim number was unchanged from its pre-shutdown figure of more than 225,000 applications, or more than a quarter of the national total. The state began accepting new filings this week, and is expected to resume reporting data in time for next week’s report.

While the lack of data from California makes week-to-week comparisons difficult, the bigger picture is clear: The economic recovery is losing momentum, even as millions of Americans remain out of work.

Monthly jobs data released last week showed that job growth slowed sharply in September, and that last spring’s temporary furloughs are increasingly turning into permanent job losses. Major corporations like Disney and Allstate have announced thousands of new job cuts. And with winter approaching, restaurants and other businesses that were able to shift operations outdoors during warmer weather could be forced to pull back anew.

Separate data from the Census Bureau on Wednesday showed that 8.3 million Americans reported being behind on rent in mid-September, and 3.8 million reported that they were likely to be evicted in the next two months. Both figures have changed little since August.

“It seems increasingly unlikely that we’ll have a deal before the election, and bills are due now,” Mr. Zhao said. “Every week that passes puts extra pressure on workers’ households and small businesses, so any delay in the stimulus is going to have a meaningful impact on Americans.”

The situation is particularly dire for people who lost their jobs early in the pandemic, many of whom are now nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.

Last week was the 29th week since mass layoffs began in March. In most states, regular unemployment benefits last just 26 weeks, meaning that many people have already exhausted their benefits.

In March, Congress created a program funded by the federal government for people whose state benefits have expired. The number of recipients under that program, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, swelled to nearly two million in mid-September, up from 1.4 million a month earlier.

The program adds only 13 weeks of additional benefits, however, so people who lost their jobs in March will receive those benefits only until mid-December. And the entire program will expire at the end of the year if Congress doesn’t extend it.

A separate program, which existed before the pandemic, offers an additional 13 to 20 weeks of benefits, depending on the state. But the benefits are based on state economic conditions, and the rapid decline in the unemployment rate means that workers in several states, including Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, would no longer qualify for it. Missouri will join their ranks next week.

Another emergency program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, also expires at the end of the year. That program covers freelancers, self-employed workers, part-timers and others who don’t qualify for benefits under the regular unemployment system. More than 460,000 people filed new applications under the program last week, and millions are receiving benefits in total.

The net result is that potentially millions of workers could see their benefits expire this winter. Epidemiologists warn that cases of the coronavirus are likely to rise as temperatures drop, and winter weather could reduce job opportunities.

“People are going to have their backs against the wall, and it’s pretty much the worst time of the year for the program to end,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the employment site Indeed.

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Black LinkedIn Is Thriving. Does LinkedIn Have a Problem With That?

One day in September, Elizabeth Leiba opened the LinkedIn app and saw a post by Aaisha Joseph, a diversity consultant with nearly 16,000 followers on the platform.

“Ima need #companies to stop sending their dedicated House Negros to ‘deal with the Blacks’ they deem out of control,” read the item. “It’s really not a good look — it’s actually a very #whitesupremacist and #racist one.”

The post was exactly the sort of thing Ms. Leiba, an instructional design manager at City College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was looking for. These days, when she pulls out her phone in search of boisterous conversation, hot takes and the latest tea, she finds herself tapping LinkedIn, which since the killing of George Floyd has become a thriving forum for Black expression.

“I go onto Twitter and I get bored,” Ms. Leiba, 46, said. “Then I go right back to LinkedIn because it’s on fire. I don’t even have to go on any other social media now.”

It’s an unexpected development for what has long been the most polite and perhaps the dullest of the major social networks. LinkedIn was founded in 2003 as a place to network and post résumés — essentially, a directory of white-collar professionals. A few years ago, LinkedIn added a Facebook-like news feed that encouraged users to post links and updates, but it has never been a rollicking space. A team of editors helped enforce a mood best described as corporate.

“You talk on LinkedIn the same way you talk in the office,” Dan Roth, LinkedIn’s editor in chief, told The New York Times in August 2019. “There are certain boundaries around what is acceptable.”

Two staggering events have changed that. In early 2020, the pandemic hit, forcing millions to work from home and miss out on break-room chitchat — boosting LinkedIn as a place to vent. Then, the killing of Mr. Floyd in police custody in May put workers over the edge. Black grief went on display, uninhibited, at corporate America’s virtual water cooler.

“I was just 43 years tired,” said Future Cain, a social and emotional learning director at a middle and high school in Wisconsin. “I was using LinkedIn to post positive things and uplift people during the pandemic, and I decided I can’t sit here quietly anymore.”

As protesters took to the streets to demand police reform, Ms. Leiba and Ms. Cain were among those who discovered that LinkedIn was a place to speak to the executive class on something like their home turf. Black users have taken to the site to call out racial discrimination in the workplace and share their stories of alienation on the job.

Not that it’s all serious: Much of the posting is exuberant — full of memes, Black cultural references and linguistic panache. This summer, Ms. Leiba shared a video about code-switching, in which a Black employee transforms while greeting colleagues of color (“Oh, hey, Black queen!”) and a white one (empty-headed hiking talk). “I’ve watched it at least fifty eleven times,” Ms. Leiba wrote.

These are the kinds of conversations, and ways of speaking, that cubicle-dwelling Black workers have typically held out of earshot of their white colleagues. As unusually charismatic posts appeared in my own feed this summer, it seemed clear that Black LinkedIn was emerging as a professional cousin to Black Twitter — the unapologetically Black digital space where people expose long-ignored injustices and pump their experience into the mainstream.

What’s less clear is how comfortable LinkedIn is with the development, having placed its content moderators in the incendiary position of determining what manner of race-related speech is appropriate for its virtual workplace of 706 million users.

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Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Black users who post in forceful tones, and some of their allies, say they feel LinkedIn has silenced them — erasing their posts and even freezing their accounts for violating vague rules of decorum.

For example, the “House Negros” post that Ms. Joseph wrote in September vanished from the platform. Ms. Joseph, who lives in Brooklyn, was able to see it when she viewed her own page, but no other users could — a practice known as shadow banning. (Later, LinkedIn added an unsigned note in red, saying the post had been removed for violating the site’s Professional Community Policies, which instruct users to “be civil and respectful in every single interaction.”) Ms. Joseph began a new item: “Let me say it louder since LinkedIn wanted to delete my post the first time.” The company removed that post, too, saying it included “harassment, defamation or disparagement of others.”

Another user, Theresa M. Robinson, a corporate training consultant in Houston, said LinkedIn had deleted a post she wrote about racism, then reinstated it after she complained. She said she had never received an explanation. Two others, Ms. Cain and Madison Butler, who works in Austin, Texas, also said LinkedIn had restricted their commentary on race.

In the absence of clear communication from the company, these users are left guessing as to what the rules are — and feeling that the company is not just policing their tone but stifling their opportunity to force change in corporate America.

Nicole Leverich, a LinkedIn spokeswoman, wrote in an email: “We are not censoring content and have not made any changes to our algorithm to reduce the distribution of content about these important topics.” She added in an interview that LinkedIn was introducing a new process for notifying users when their posts were flagged for violating platform rules, and that some people hadn’t been phased in by the end of September.

The company acknowledged that it had erred in taking action against some users and restored content that was found, on appeal, not to violate its policies.

“If we make a mistake, we will own it,” said Paul Rockwell, the head of LinkedIn’s trust and safety division. “We will be very clear — this is a learning opportunity for us. We’re going to continue to use that in our journey to get better and better. And we do want to nail this thing.”

Few people think LinkedIn should look anything like the wilds of Reddit or Twitter, which have a certain amount of anonymity and even anarchy built into their DNA. Much of LinkedIn’s value — Microsoft acquired it in 2016 for $26 billion — is tied to its sense of professionalism and respectful conduct. Users must share their real names and credentials, and it’s understood that their current or prospective employers might well scan anything they post.

For Black people in the corporate realm, however, words like “professional” and “respectful” are red flags. Like the natural Black hairstyles that were once widely considered unprofessional, certain behaviors — being too Black, speaking too Black or talking too much about Black topics — have long limited advancement in companies with white cultures.

That’s what has changed on LinkedIn in the last few months. Black people are being, to use a technical term, Blackity-Black Black on LinkedIn. Much of the behavior is not so different from Black Twitter; users pepper their posts with clap emojis to emphasize every syllable, and GIFs celebrate cultural touchstones like Issa Rae’s “Insecure” and Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” The difference is that it is all happening on a social network that mirrors the business world — a place that is predominantly white.

“It is liberating. It feels like it’s about time,” Ms. Joseph said. “We are taking back what was stolen from us — and that’s our voice. I’m talking specifically to my people in the way that we talk to each other in other spaces, and without regard for any outside audience. No longer having to stifle that has been freeing.”

Part of what Black LinkedIn has done is brought together Black professionals to be their authentic selves in front of their white colleagues. For many, it has been an existential relief, and may provide a blueprint for how Black employees choose to conduct themselves once the physical workplace reopens.

“The days of hiding and masking who you are and dealing with the BS — I just can’t even go back to that,” said Jessica Pharm, 33, who works in human resources at a manufacturing firm near Milwaukee. “Any company that gets me next is getting the full-on Jessica.”

Ms. Leiba posted on Sept. 17: “It means code-switching is OUT. It means the AFRO is coming at you on a daily basis. It means you’re getting these bangle earrings and the poppin’ lip gloss.”

Inevitably, not everyone accepts this kind of exuberance. Posts about Black Lives Matter and racial justice often attract the same kind of dismissive, and sometimes bigoted, responses found on other platforms: rejoinders that “all lives matter,” for instance, or claims about Black-on-Black crime. But because the activity takes place on LinkedIn, these comments typically come with the user’s headshot, place of employment and entire work history attached.

“You start to see these people who are absolutely not OK with this focus on Blackness popping up in commentary, with their name and their company fully on display, giving zero deference to the moment,” said John Graham Jr., 39, a digital marketer and strategist at a California biotechnology company. “I find it telling that people would put their careers in jeopardy and their unconscious biases on full display.”

LinkedIn has also struggled internally with how to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. In June, the chief executive, Ryan Roslansky, publicly apologized for “appalling” racial comments some employees had made at a companywide staff meeting.

Rosanna Durruthy, LinkedIn’s head of diversity, inclusion and belonging, said in an interview that the company was engaging in hard conversations about race, both inside the company and out.

“We’re really beginning to focus very consistently on how we begin to address this externally” on the platform, she said.

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Credit…Eli Durst for The New York Times

One of the most vociferous presences on Black LinkedIn is Ms. Butler, a human resources consultant and vice president at a start-up. She has posted on LinkedIn since 2018 and with increasing frequency and fervor this year. The potential to speak truth to capital, she said, makes the resulting rounds of death threats worth it.

“There is something to be said about the access LinkedIn gives you to powerful C.E.O.s and V.C.s to help change their outlook and how they support Black employees and founders,” said Ms. Butler, 29, referring to venture capitalists. “The conversation that has to happen in order to break down the status quo in corporate America isn’t happening on Instagram.”

Ms. Butler, who has about 40,000 followers, posts on LinkedIn daily. Her style is to be prescriptive, assail corporate norms and call out whitesplainers and trolls; she tends to close each missive with the hashtags #isaidwhatisaid, #thatsthetea and #blackgirlmagic. One recent post scolded companies that make a show of cheering on the Black Lives Matter movement but haven’t done right by their employees.

“Do the Black people in your organization feel like they matter, or do they feel like the Black stock photos you used to enhance your ‘wokeness’ footprint in the marketplace. If you can’t make the Black lives under your own roof matter, do not use Black Lives Matter as a brand strategy,” Ms. Butler wrote recently. “Don’t talk about it, be about it. Period.”

Other stars of Black LinkedIn target specific companies. Ms. Joseph, for example, has recently called out Wells Fargo, DoorDash, Microsoft and Google.

There has also been no shortage of criticism of LinkedIn itself. Users are holding the company to a standard it set for itself in June, when Melissa Selcher, the chief marketing and communications officer, wrote an open letter on the platform.

“We have a responsibility to use our platform and resources to intentionally address the systemic barriers to economic opportunity,” she wrote. “We also believe we play a critical role in amplifying Black voices.”

Also in June, with Black Lives Matter protests spreading across the country, LinkedIn highlighted “Black Voices to Follow and Amplify,” a curated list of chief executives, media personalities and other influencers, including the Rev. Bernice King and Karamo Brown from the Netflix show “Queer Eye.” For the most part, members of the list post content that is general, motivational and safe.

Ms. Joseph and others took to LinkedIn to say the group contained too many establishment names and not enough activists. “Where are the Tamika Mallorys of LinkedIn on that list?” Ms. Joseph wrote, referring to a co-founder of the 2017 Women’s March.

“Black voices aren’t just corporate C-Suite ones,” wrote Patricia S. Gatlin, a talent sourcing specialist in Las Vegas. “All Black voices need to be heard in this moment,” added Scott Taylor, a recruiter in Los Angeles. “Not just the ones your team of analysts think we should hear from.”

Ms. Leverich, the LinkedIn spokeswoman, said by email: “We use a number of factors in our selection, including members who have self-identified as Black, people from a variety of industries and with an interesting perspective to share. We’re constantly adding new voices and sorting through requests to join this program.”

In September, LinkedIn used its own company page to pose a question to its 13 million followers: “What are the best ways to normalize having conversations about race and anti-racism in the workplace? #ConversationsForChange”

The responses quickly turned sour. “LinkedIn, you can facilitate that objective by normalizing those conversations on your platform,” wrote Lenzy Ruffin, a communications strategist in Washington, D.C.

“The irony that you should post this!” wrote Abi Adamson, a diversity and inclusion consultant in London. “Kindly stop censoring Black content around racism. People like me have had our engagement go down astronomically when highlighting racism or how to be anti racist. Help amplify our voices and stop silencing us.”

Sabrina McClimans, a graduate student in Seattle, asked the platform to “stop ‘accidentally’ disappearing the posts of Black women on your platform when they talk about race and anti-racism.”

“I have seen cases in which individuals who harass Black women on this platform have maintained their accounts while those who speak out against racism and prejudice have had accounts suspended,” added Phil Molé, who works at a software company in Chicago. “It’s time for a thorough review of the way the issues are handled.”

LinkedIn did not respond to those comments. Philip Mix, a consultant in London, added to the thread after a day and a half, when there were 344 comments, saying he had gone through them “three times to make sure I wasn’t mistaken.” By his count, LinkedIn had replied to five users — four times to say “Thank you for sharing” and once with “Nicely put.”

Mr. Mix concluded: “Not sure if I’m more shocked or depressed by this miserably inadequate show from LinkedIn.”

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Coronavirus Exposes Holes in Sweden’s Generous Social Welfare State

In the popular imagination, Sweden does not seem like the sort of country prone to accepting the mass death of grandparents to conserve resources in a pandemic.

Swedes pay some of the highest taxes on earth in exchange for extensive government services, including state-furnished health care and education, plus generous cash assistance for those who lose jobs. When a child is born, the parents receive 480 days of parental leave to use between them.

Yet among the nearly 6,000 people whose deaths have been linked to the coronavirus in Sweden, 2,694, or more than 45 percent, had been among the country’s most vulnerable citizens — those living in nursing homes.

That tragedy is in part the story of how Sweden has, over decades, gradually yet relentlessly downgraded its famously generous social safety net.

Since a financial crisis in the early 1990s, Sweden has slashed taxes and diminished government services. It has handed responsibility for the care of older people — mostly living at home — to strapped municipal governments, while opening up nursing homes to for-profit businesses. They have delivered cost savings by relying on part-time and temporary workers, who typically lack formal training in medicine and elder care.

This is how the nursing staff at the Sabbatsbergsbyn nursing home in the center of Stockholm found itself grappling with an impossible situation.

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Credit…Felix Odell for The New York Times

It was the middle of March, and several of the 106 residents, most of them suffering dementia, were already displaying symptoms of Covid-19. The staff had to be dedicated to individual wards while rigorously avoiding entering others to prevent transmission. But when the team presented this plan to the supervisors, they dismissed it, citing meager staffing, said one nurse, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, citing concerns about potential legal action.

The facility was owned and operated by Sweden’s largest for-profit operator of nursing homes, Attendo, whose stock trades on the Nasdaq Stockholm exchange. Last year, the company tallied revenue in excess of $1.3 billion.

On weekends and during night shifts, the nurse was frequently the only one on duty. The rest of the staff lacked proper protective gear, said the nurse and a care aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being fired. Management had given them basic cardboard masks — “the kind house painters wear,” the nurse said — while instructing them to use the same ones for days in a row. Some used plastic file folders and string to make their own visors.

By the time the nurse quit in May, at least 20 residents were dead, she said.

“The way we had to work went against everything we learned in school regarding disease control,” the nurse said. “I felt ashamed, because I knew that we were spreaders.”

The lowest-wage workers — who are paid hourly and lack the protection of contracts — continued showing up for shifts, even after falling ill, because government-furnished sick pay did not cover all of their lost wages, the care aide said.

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Credit…Felix Odell for The New York Times

“This is an undervalued part of the labor market,” said Marta Szebehely, an expert in elder care at Stockholm University. “Some care workers are badly paid, badly trained and have really bad employment conditions. And they were supposed to stop a transmission that nobody knew anything about, and without much support.”

Vulnerability in another area was central to the devastation: Over the last two decades, Sweden has substantially reduced its hospital capacity. During the worst of the initial outbreak, elderly people in nursing homes were denied access to hospitals for fear of overwhelming them.

When nursing home residents displayed Covid symptoms, guidelines in force in Stockholm in the initial phase of the pandemic encouraged physicians to prescribe palliative care — forgoing efforts to save lives in favor of keeping people comfortable in their final days — without examining patients or conducting blood or urine tests, said Dr. Yngve Gustafson, a professor of geriatrics at Umea University. He said that practice amounted to active euthanasia, which is illegal in Sweden.

“As a physician,” Dr. Gustafson said, “I feel ashamed that there are physicians who haven’t done an individual assessment before they decide whether or not the patient should die.”

In the United States, some 40 percent of total coronavirus deaths have been linked to nursing homes, according to a New York Times database. In Britain, Covid has been directly blamed in more than 15,000 nursing home deaths, according to government data.

But these are countries characterized by extreme levels of economic inequality. An estimated 45,000 Americans die every year for lack of health care, according to one report. Britons endured a decade of punishing austerity that battered the national health system.

Sweden is supposed to be immune to such dangers. Yet this country of only 10 million people has been ravaged by the coronavirus, with per capita death rates nearly as high as the United States, Britain and Spain, according to World Health Organization data.

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Credit…Elisabeth Ubbe for The New York Times

One element appears to have substantially increased the risks: Sweden’s decision to avoid the lockdowns imposed in much of the rest of Europe as a means of limiting the virus. Though the government recommended social distancing, and many people worked from home, it kept schools open along with shops, restaurants and nightclubs. It did not require that people wear masks.

“There’s been more society transmission, and it’s been more difficult to hinder it from entering the care homes,” said Joacim Rocklov, an epidemiologist at Umea University. “The most precious time that we lost, our mistake was in the beginning.”

Those who operate private nursing homes in Sweden assert that residents have been the victims of the government’s failure to limit the spread of the virus.

“It’s the total transmission in society, that’s the key,” said Martin Tivéus, chief executive of Attendo, the company that owns the Sabbatsbergsbyn home in Stockholm.

Investigations by Swedish media have concluded that private nursing homes suffered lower death rates than their public counterparts. But experts say private and public homes are governed by the same decisive force: Municipalities handle elderly care, and taxpayers have been inclined to pay less.

For decades aggressive public spending was the rule in Sweden, rendering joblessness a rarity. By the beginning of the 1990s, a sense had taken hold that the state had overdone it. It was subsidizing industries that were not internationally competitive. Wages were rising faster than productivity, yielding inflation.

In 1992, Sweden’s central bank lifted interest rates as high as 75 percent to choke off inflation while preventing a plunge in the national currency, the krona. The next year, amid a tightening of credit, Sweden’s unemployment rate surged above 8 percent. The economy contracted, depleting municipal tax revenues.

This played out just as the policy sphere became infused with the thinking of economists like Milton Friedman, whose neoliberal principles placed faith in shrinking the state and lowering taxes as a source of dynamism.

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Credit…Felix Odell for The New York Times

From the middle of the 1990s through 2013, Sweden dropped its top income tax rate to 57 percent from 84 percent while eliminating levies on property, wealth and inheritance. The net effect was a reduction in government revenue equivalent to 7 percent of national economic output.

Under a 1992 law, Swedish elder care shifted from a reliance on nursing homes to an emphasis on home care. Part of the alteration was philosophical. Policymakers embraced the idea that older people would better enjoy their last years in their own homes, rather than in institutional settings.

But the shift was also driven by budget imperatives.

As a share of its economy, Sweden spends 3.2 percent a year on long-term care for the elderly, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, compared with 0.5 percent in the United States and 1.4 percent in Britain. Only the Netherlands and Norway spend more.

But that expenditure is now spread across a population with greater needs. With home care the rule, nursing homes are reserved for older people suffering from complex ailments.

Attendo said it had enough protective gear to satisfy Swedish guidelines, and more than public nursing homes had, but not enough to manage the pandemic. When the company realized it needed more, it confronted a global shortage.

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Credit…Associated Press

“It took five or six weeks to get the volumes outside of China,” said Mr. Tivéus, the Attendo chief executive.

The shortages at Swedish nursing homes underscore the extent to which budget math has taken precedence over social welfare, say those who have watched the refashioning.

“What this pandemic has done is demonstrate a number of system errors that have gone under the radar for years,” said Olle Lundberg, secretary general of Forte, a health research council that is part of the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. “We totally rely on the global production chain and just-in-time delivery. The syringes we need today should be delivered in the morning. There is no safety margin. It may be very economically efficient in one way, but it’s very vulnerable.”

Mia Grane was unaware of the systemic issues when she moved her parents into the Sabbatsbergsbyn home in the summer of 2018.

In their younger days, her mother had been an Olympic swimmer. Now, she was descending into Alzheimer’s. Her father used a wheelchair.

The home sat in the center of Stockholm, a 15-minute bike ride from her apartment, with lovely gardens that were used for midsummer parties.

“It was a perfect place,” said Ms. Grane, 51. “They felt at home.”

But her confidence evaporated as the pandemic spread. When she asked the nursing home staff how it planned to manage the danger, it reassured her that everything was fine.

“I thought, ‘If this virus gets into this place,’” she said, “‘a lot of people are going to die.’”

A week later, she read in a local newspaper that a prominent Swedish musician had died. He had lived in the same ward as her parents. She called the home and was told that her father was suffering cold symptoms. A test showed that he had contracted Covid.

Ms. Grane urged the staff to transfer her father to the hospital. It told her that no one was making that journey, she said.

Nursing homes lack advanced medical equipment like ventilators, and hospitals were effectively off limits to nursing home residents.

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“We knew that Sweden had fewer intensive care beds per inhabitants than Italy,” said Dr. Michael Broomé, a physician at an intensive care unit in Stockholm. “We had to think twice about whether to put elderly people with other conditions on ventilators.”

This forced the nursing home to administer comfort care, easing the pain with opioids as death approached.

Ms. Grane’s father died on April 2. “He was all alone,” she said.

She begged the staff to save her mother — “the most important person in my life.” But she wasn’t eating. A week later, her mother died, too.

Ms. Grane struggles to make sense of it — the staff not having proper masks, the hospital deemed off limits, the lack of concern about the nature of the threat.

“For me, it’s clear that they wanted to save costs,” she said. “In the end, it’s the money that talks.”

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New Stimulus Hopes Fade While Economic Risks Grow

Here is the situation the U.S. economy faces, a month before Election Day: Job growth is stalling. Layoffs are mounting. And no more help is coming, at least not right away.

American households and businesses have gone two months without the enhanced unemployment benefits, low-interest loans and other programs that helped prop up the economy in the spring. And now, after President Trump’s announcement Tuesday that he was cutting off stimulus negotiations until after the election, the wait will go on at least another month — and very likely until the next presidential term starts in 2021.

It could be a dangerous delay.

Already, many furloughs are turning into permanent job losses, and major companies like Disney and Allstate are initiating new rounds of layoffs. The hotel industry is warning of thousands of closures, and tens of thousands of small businesses are weighing whether to close up shop for good. An estimated one of every seven small businesses in the United States had shut down permanently by the end of August — 850,000 in all — according to data from Womply, a marketing platform. The deeper those wounds, the longer the economy will take to heal.

Economists say lawmakers should be acting immediately to send more money to workers marooned on unemployment by the recession, to businesses of all sizes that are struggling to survive until the pandemic abates and their customers return in full force, and to state and local governments that have seen tax revenues decline and are already moving to lay off public employees.

While they disagree about exactly how much federal aid the economy needs right now, virtually all economists, across the ideological spectrum, agree on one thing: The correct dollar figure is not “zero.” Most estimates fall in a range between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.

Mr. Trump appeared to open the door to piecemeal measures like aid for airlines and individual checks, and his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke twice on Wednesday about a stand-alone bill for airline relief. But prospects for even a limited package were uncertain and would fall far short of the amount that many economists say is needed to keep businesses and households solvent.

“The risk to waiting is that we may find ourselves in a place where we’re unable to turn back, we’ll hit a tipping point,” said Karen Dynan, a Harvard economist and Treasury Department official during the Obama administration.

R. Glenn Hubbard, a Columbia University economist who was chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, said the economy still needed $1 trillion in immediate aid for people, businesses and state governments. “Failing to act will have real economic consequences,” he said.

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, echoed those concerns in a speech on Tuesday, arguing that the government should go big and that not providing adequate support carried risks for the economy.

“Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” he said. “Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy and holding back wage growth.”

Business leaders have made urgent pleas for help, arguing that the risk of not acting could doom entire sectors. The Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives from major corporations like Apple and Walmart, warned on Tuesday evening that “communities across the country are on the precipice of a downward spiral and facing irreparable damage.”

Some 36,000 franchise businesses are likely to close by winter without additional federal support, said Matthew Haller, senior vice president for government relations and public affairs at the International Franchise Association in Washington, which represents owners of gyms, salons and other chains. “The situation’s pretty dire,” he said.

Laid-off workers are also under pressure. Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at Evercore ISI, estimates that unemployed Americans will begin to exhaust the savings they were able to amass from previous rounds of aid as early as this month, leaving them struggling to buy food or pay rent. Without another aid package, the economy will regain four million fewer jobs through the end of next year than it would have if lawmakers had struck a deal, he said in a research note on Wednesday.

The gridlock in Washington is a reversal from the spring, when fear of an imminent economic collapse led Congress to vote overwhelmingly to approve trillions of dollars in aid to households and businesses. The effort was largely successful: Households began spending again, companies began bringing back workers, and a predicted tidal wave of evictions and foreclosures mostly failed to materialize. The unemployment rate, which reached nearly 15 percent in April, fell to 7.9 percent in September.

But most of the aid programs expired over the summer, and in recent weeks economic gains have faltered. Economists say the loss of momentum is likely to grow worse if more aid doesn’t arrive soon. Federal Reserve officials had been expecting another aid package to arrive when they released their economic projections in September, minutes released on Wednesday showed, and warned that “absent a new package, growth could decelerate at a faster-than-expected pace in the fourth quarter.”

While Republicans, Democrats and the White House have sparred over the scope and size of another package, many economists say the amount is less important than how fast and where the money is deployed.

“When do you need money? The answer is, two months ago,” said Jason Furman, who ran the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama.

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Credit…Joseph Rushmore for The New York Times

Unemployment benefits are a top priority for many economists. The $600 a week in extra benefits that kept many households afloat in the spring expired at the end of July, leaving millions of families struggling to get by on only their regular state unemployment benefits, which often total just a few hundred dollars a week. Millions more people are depending on temporary programs that extend aid to those who don’t qualify for regular state benefits or whose benefits have expired. Those programs lapse at the end of the year.

Research has found that unemployment benefits are among the most effective forms of economic stimulus, because jobless workers are likely to spend the money rather than save it. But many economists said that is a secondary reason for extending benefits; the primary reason is to keep families from slipping into poverty or losing their homes.

“My principal reason for wanting the $600 to continue is not as a macroeconomist, it’s because I’m worried about people,” said Jay Shambaugh, a George Washington University economist who served as an adviser to Mr. Obama. “I think we can afford it and not have people starve.”

Senate Republicans have made clear they will not support restoring the full $600 supplement, which many of them opposed from the start. But even progressive economists say any amount is better than nothing.

“I don’t think it’s worth dying on the hill of ‘should it be $600 or $400,’” said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve economist who has been one of the most vocal proponents for federal spending since the start of the pandemic.

The consequences of failing to provide help to jobless families would be particularly dire for low-income families, many of them Black and Hispanic. Those workers were among the last to make gains after the previous recession, and have lost the most this time around.

“The gains that have been built up over time are fragile,” said Raghuram G. Rajan, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund who is now a professor at the University of Chicago. “You have a whole bunch of people who’ve struggled their way into a semblance of normalcy by 2019, and then you have this massive crisis. If we don’t try to protect those gains, it will take a longer time, a really long time to come back.”

Businesses are also in need of more help, particularly industries that have yet to return to full capacity as the virus persists. Major airlines began laying off workers this month after Congress failed to extend an earlier aid package. A hospitality-industry lobbying group last month released a report estimating that 1.6 million hotel workers could lose their jobs and 38,000 hotels could close without federal help. Restaurants are in similarly dire straits, especially as colder weather begins to shut down outdoor dining in much of the country.

With the pandemic lingering longer than many had expected, economists said businesses are facing new challenges that will require a different approach from what Congress previously funded. For instance, any new program probably needs to provide more flexibility to businesses, allowing them to make adjustments — including laying off workers — to survive a crisis that could stretch on another year or more.

Steven Hamilton, a George Washington University economist, said lawmakers should “radically expand” a tax credit that offsets the costs of retaining employees, along with additional aid for fixed costs like rent. He said any delay in help, especially until next year, “would be catastrophic.”

“It is much faster to close a business than to start one,” he said. “It took us a decade to regain the businesses lost in just three years during the Great Recession. The labor market seems to have hit a ceiling in recent months, and a big part of that is that many workers’ former employers no longer exist.”

And while companies have begun to bring back furloughed workers, the U.S. economy lost 216,000 government jobs in September, according to the Labor Department, with most of those cuts coming at the state and local level. Forecasters warn that much deeper cuts are coming as state and local governments reel from lost tax revenue.

Economists say that the failure to help state and local governments was one of the biggest policy mistakes of the last recession. Back then, state and local governments cut thousands of jobs, slashed spending and raised taxes, offsetting federal efforts to prop up the economy through deficit spending and tax cuts.

Economists have been arguing since the spring that insufficient aid for state and local governments was a significant flaw in the various relief packages.

“We’re in for a sizable reduction in economic activity coming from state governments if we don’t do anything,” said Wendy Edelberg, who runs the Hamilton Project, an economic-policy arm of the Brookings Institution. “It’s just a terrible thought that we didn’t learn that lesson post-2008, that state budgets are incredibly important to the aggregate economy.”

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Workers Face Permanent Job Losses as the Virus Persists

The United States economy is facing a tidal wave of long-term unemployment as millions of people who lost jobs early in the pandemic remain out of work six months later and job losses increasingly turn permanent.

The Labor Department said on Friday that 2.4 million people had been out of work for 27 weeks or more, the threshold it uses to define long-term joblessness. An even bigger surge is on the way: Nearly five million people are approaching long-term joblessness over the next two months. The same report showed that even as temporary layoffs were on the decline, permanent job losses were rising sharply.

Those two problems — rising long-term unemployment and permanent job losses — are separate but intertwined and, together, could foreshadow a period of prolonged economic damage and financial pain for American families.

Companies that are limping along below capacity this far into the crisis may be increasingly unlikely to ever recall their employees. History also suggests the longer that people are out of work, the harder it is for them to get back into a job.

To be sure, the labor market has bounced back more quickly than most forecasters expected in the spring. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in September from 14.7 percent in April. But progress has slowed, and there are signs of more lasting damage. Through September, the economy had regained only about half of the 22 million jobs it lost between February and April.

High-interaction businesses like restaurants, theaters, casinos, conferences and cruises are struggling to fully reopen as the coronavirus continues to spread, leaving many workers out of jobs.

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Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

Disney announced this past week that it would lay off 28,000 U.S. employees as its theme parks struggle. Layoff notices filed with state authorities show that hospitality and service companies across the country, from P.F. Chang’s restaurant branches to Gap stores, are making thousands of long-term staff reductions. Airport bookstores in Pennsylvania and Tennessee are cutting jobs as travel dwindles. So are wineries and upscale sports clubs in California.

Airline job cuts run to the tens of thousands. American Airlines started to send furlough notices to 19,000 workers and United Airlines to 13,000 after a federal moratorium expired on Thursday. Those are on top of reductions at other carriers, and existing firings across the industry.

Altogether, nearly 3.8 million people had lost their jobs permanently in September, according to the Labor Department’s latest monthly survey, almost twice as many as at the height of the pandemic job losses, in April.

As a result, the employment rebound, which was initially rapid, may begin to feel more like the grinding healing process that dragged on for a full decade after the Great Recession, economists warned.

“The risk is that you end up with people permanently detached from the labor market, and either you never get them back in or it takes you 10 years to get them back in, like it did the last time,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics. “The economic consequences are that you depress future growth.”

The slow recovery from the Great Recession, when the tally of the long-term unemployed neared seven million, made it clear that extended spells out of work can haunt workers, locking them out of job opportunities or reducing pay.

Whether that penalty holds true in the pandemic-induced downturn remains unclear, but the economic repercussions of having a large number of workers sidelined will undoubtedly weigh on the United States’ economic potential and disrupt lives.

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, has warned that a “significant group” of people may “still be struggling to find jobs” even as the labor market strengthens.

Longer-term unemployment can be “very damaging to people’s lives and their working lives,” Mr. Powell said at a news conference this year.

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Credit…Elizabeth Frantz for The New York Times

The risk of permanent job loss weighs heavily on workers like MacKenzie Nicholson of Nottingham, N.H., who lost her job with the American Cancer Society in June after the pandemic cut into the organization’s fund-raising. Her husband, a service manager at a Jeep dealership, kept his job after a brief furlough, but his income is not enough to cover their monthly expenses.

Ms. Nicholson plans to start picking up gig shifts with DoorDash and Uber in the evenings, once her husband gets home from work and can take over watching their two young children.

“I’ll be saying goodbye to my husband when he gets in the door,” she said. “It won’t be ideal for our marriage.”

It’s hard for Ms. Nicholson, 30, to square the anxiety over meeting basic needs with the life she had one year ago, when she and her husband bought their first home, providing a sense of security. Now their mortgage payment feels like an albatross, and a simple trip to Target feels out of reach.

“My daughter ran out of toothpaste and I put it on the shopping list, and then realized we could use the sample bottles we get from the dentist to hold out for a few weeks,” Ms. Nicholson said. “I’m making disgusting casseroles with everything I have in the fridge so I don’t have to go grocery shopping.”

Lasting joblessness is a comparatively new problem in the United States. Europe, where social safety nets are more generous and labor rules are stricter, has long had high rates of extended unemployment. But economists once thought that the United States’ less restrictive, more dynamic labor market made it relatively immune. Even in the brutal recessions of the early 1980s, when the unemployment rate topped 10 percent, less than a quarter of job seekers had remained out of work longer than six months.

That has changed in recent decades, as the sluggish “jobless recoveries” that followed the past three recessions left a large share of workers unable to find jobs for months or years. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, nearly half of all job seekers had been unemployed long term. Many younger people dropped out of the job market altogether, while long-term unemployment for workers older than 50 stayed at high levels for years.

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Credit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

This is a very different crisis, both in swiftness and in breadth. Workers in entire industries were furloughed practically overnight, with little regard for their unique skills and performance. Employers may not fault future applicants for those lost jobs.

“It’s not clear to me that anyone’s going to hold it against you that you were an unemployed waiter for nine months,” said Jay Shambaugh, a George Washington University economist.

But there is mounting evidence that the long-term jobless will face a harder road back to work. In August, newly unemployed workers — out of work less than five weeks — were twice as likely to find jobs as those out of work more than six months.

Many people who aren’t looking for work now because they believe they are on temporary layoff may find that their jobs never return. They may be “frozen in place by the uncertainty of not knowing what the economy is going to look like,” said Thomas Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

If losses do turn permanent, it’s unclear how quickly workers will be able to shift into new roles. People with similar backgrounds tend to apply for similar jobs, which could lead to a glut of available workers in categories that lack the demand to absorb them.

Jose Martinez, 47, a houseman at the DoubleTree Metropolitan hotel in Midtown Manhattan for 26 years, remains hopeful he will retain his job. He was laid off in April, and despite several setbacks, he said he expects to return this coming week because his union contract requires that workers be brought back according to tenure. His wife also works at the hotel, but she has not been there for as long and is more likely to remain out of work longer.

“There are hotels that are closing, but it’s mostly the smaller hotels,” Mr. Martinez said. “I have faith that I’ll be back at work.”

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Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Nathaniel Claridad is less certain what the future holds, though he, too, hopes for a return to normalcy. He was acting in a show in Florida when Broadway closed. Days later, the artistic director informed him and the rest of the cast and crew that they were free to go — they were shutting down as well.

Fast forward six months and Mr. Claridad, who had another show and a concert postponed and saw his job selling tickets at a Midtown theater wilt away, remains unemployed. He’s current on rent for the Washington Heights apartment he shares with his employed partner, and he’s hopeful that his shows will take place in 2021 — but he’s starting to pick up Zoom directing gigs here and there, and he is applying to teaching jobs.

“It’s getting to the time now where I have to decide what to do, in terms of income,” Mr. Claridad, 38, said. But there are downsides to looking for work when your colleagues with similar skill sets are doing the same.

“Talking with friends, it feels like the market is saturated with people like me who are looking for another source of income,” he said.

Labor supply also remains an issue. Employers report that many workers, including those who are older, are nervous about returning given the health threat. People with children, particularly women, are struggling to return to jobs because they have limited child care options with schools and day cares all or partly closed.

Women’s participation rate — the share working or looking for work — dropped last month to its lowest level since 1987, excluding April and May this year. The household employment survey suggested that they might have lost more than 140,000 jobs in September, though a separate survey of businesses showed them still eking out gains.

The people most at risk of getting stuck on the sidelines in this crisis are in many cases those least prepared to take the hit.

Minority groups have seen bigger spikes in unemployment during the pandemic era — and getting back to work is taking them longer, suggesting that they are likely to make up a disproportionate share of the long-term unemployed.

Black joblessness jumped higher earlier in the recession and is declining more slowly than that for white workers: It stood at 12.1 percent in September, compared with 7 percent for white adults. Hispanic unemployment jumped at the onset of the crisis but is declining relatively quickly. Even so, it stood at 10.3 percent last month.

Those groups hold far less wealth, so they are less financially prepared for a long period out of work.

For now, unemployment is falling across demographic groups as layoffs end, and some economists are hopeful that the rebound will continue — though most warn that recovery will remain incomplete until the virus is under control.

Mr. Barkin at the Richmond Fed is urging communities and policymakers to think about retraining options now, in recognition that some share of the work force may find that its old skills are obsolete.

“It’s a virtual certainty that there are going to be large scarring effects for workers in certain industries,” said Alicia Sasser Modestino, an economist at Northeastern University. “What will those workers do with the skill sets that they have?”

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