‘At least, it’s some’: Economist says allowing elective surgeries will likely have minimal effect on unemployment rate


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Friday is when Virginians can again have non-emergency surgeries, procedures and dental work performed. At that time, a small percentage of the state’s workforce has the chance to leave the unemployment line.

From March 25 to May 1, Gov. Ralph Northam, (D-Va.) ordered elective operations to halt in order to help preserve personal protective equipment for an influx of coronavirus cases.

In almost the same amount of time, more than 570,000 Virginians filed for unemployment.

Professor Robert McNab, director of the Dragas Center at Old Dominion University, said healthcare workers across the state, because of Northam’s action, certainly make up some of those claims.

“The Virginia Employment Commission is suggesting that at least 5 percent of the unemployment claims in Virginia are from the healthcare sector,” McNab said Thursday afternoon. “It’s not a lot of people going back to work [compared to the total out of work] but at least, it’s some.”

McNab believes it will help take some of the pressure off the unemployment system.

Until non-essential businesses open, though, don’t look for any real turnaround.

“This will not put us in recovery,” McNab said. “The majority of layoffs have occurred in restaurants, hotels, retail establishments, etc.”

He did, however, say some of those businesses and fringe businesses could still see a boost from the reopening of the healthcare sector. A restaurant providing takeout orders near a busy medical center could see a boost in revenue, for example.

Of course, that is assuming people go forward with the surgeries and procedures.

“It’s not like it’s the snap of the finger and all of this comes back tomorrow. It’s a gradual re-opening that takes time,” Mcnabb said.

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