The economy has destroyed 9.4 million jobs this year. In the 2010s, the economy created about 2.2 million jobs per year. A negative 9.4 million leaves us down 11.6 million from a normal year. What does that mean in practical terms? We are still in worse shape than any recession you've lived through.
There are a couple of things to do.
One, accelerate vaccine deployment to return to normal as quickly as possible. Globally, (per an OECD analysis) the difference between a rapid or slow vaccine rollout is $7 trillion (by the 4Q 2022). Of the 180-some countries in the world, only the US and China have economies larger than $5 trillion.
The risk of global governments - including the US - spending too much to too rapidly vaccinate its population is zero. The risk of them spending too little and moving too slowly to vaccinate their population? Very high. 9 million unemployed is incredibly costly for so many reasons. (And that is just the economic cost and doesn't even acknowledge the emotional devastation of sustained unemployment - which breaks up families and leads to deaths of despair. You don't even need compassion to realize that the economic cost of this many unemployed is unacceptable.)
In 2021, the US economy needs to create nearly 14 million jobs to return to its pre-COVID trendline. Spoiler alert: that will never happen. So why mention the need to create 14 million jobs in 2021? Because the average American and their political representative still has no idea how deep is the hole we're standing in and is terribly timid about deficit spending, even in a time when the price of money - the interest rate - is negative. Money is cheaper than free. They're paying you money to borrow money.
We are at a unique spot in history.
1. Real interest rates are negative. The five-year treasury rate is NEGATIVE 1.3%. Ten-year is NEGATIVE 0.89%. If you borrow $1 today, you will have to pay back less than 99 cents in five years. Even if your investment only breaks even - the dollar you invested today is worth only a dollar in five years - you come out ahead.
2. We need huge investments in transitioning our economy from a reliance on fossil fuels to one reliant on alternative energy. Shifting the economy - from research to development to manufacturing to building these innovations into our infrastructure - is a massive project. It will cost an enormous sum and require that we employ millions of people. That is, these projects require a lot of people and money and right now we have an abundance of both.
The difference between whether we find ourselves on a train ride or in a train wreck is simply a matter of acting boldly rather than timidly. Bold action begins with the realization of how deep is the hole we're standing in and that nothing could be more costly than doing nothing.
What is the cost of doing nothing? If we continue to create only 245 thousand jobs a month, it will take us more than a decade to get out of this hole. That we cannot afford.