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3 Million Unemployed Renters Remain Burdened by Housing Costs

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3 Million Unemployed Renters Remain Burdened by Housing Costs


January 12, 2021
unhappy renters
Photo: Prostock-studio

There are an estimated 3 million renters who remain unemployed from March that face intense housing cost burdens. Thanks to the new stimulus package, these renters will receive an additional $300 in weekly payments, which can help housing costs. But even with the bonus cash, 43% of unemployment insurance income goes to rent, which is better than the 81.2% with only state unemployment. Without the $300, Zillow says state unemployment alone has forced many renters to choose between paying housing costs, food, clothing, and healthcare. For those renters who did not experience job loss, rent burdens improved somewhat as rent growth halted and even dropped in areas.

Even so, the evidence is clear that renters are shouldering much more of the burden of the pandemic than their homeowning peers, in large part because of dramatic job losses in high-contact industries that are often staffed by renters. In 2019, almost half (48%) of workers in the accommodation and food services industries identified as renters. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.1 million fewer jobs in these industries in November 2020 (11.6 million) than there were in March 2020 (13.7 million). Assuming that job losses in accommodation and food service were independent of renter status, it is likely that approximately 1.01 million renters (48% of 2.1 million) that were employed in March were no longer employed in November.  Applying this same approach to all NAICS sectors, we estimate that 3 million[2] renters that were employed in March were no longer employed in November — and the primary source of income for these millions of renters is federal and state unemployment insurance.  

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