The “present ills of our economy” invite Catholics to reflect on ways to propose new and creative responses to vital human needs in a post-pandemic world, said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in the U.S. bishops’ annual Labor Day statement.
Acknowledging that the economy is showing signs of recovery despite the continuing pandemic, Archbishop Coakley said the current time presents an opportunity to “build a consensus around human dignity and the common good.”
But despite signs of an economic recovery, he said in the statement released Sept. 2, millions of Americans continue to struggle financially because of unemployment, poverty and hunger made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are still many uncertainties around this pandemic; however, we do know that our society and our world will never be the same,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Coakley credited and thanked the many workers “who have kept our country functioning during these trying times and worked under difficult and often underappreciated conditions.”
“We also pray for those who lost or continue to lack resources or income, as research indicates 47% of adults experienced employment income loss” from March 2020, when pandemic shutdowns began, and February 2021, he said.
Despite some job gains, the statement noted that the unemployment rate in July, at 5.4%, was higher than the 3.5% unemployment rate in February 2020.
“Adults in lower-income households were more likely to experience employment income loss than those from higher income households,” the archbishop said. “And women accounted for more than half of the job losses during the first seven months of the recession (during the pandemic) even though they make up less than half of the workforce.”
Archbishop Coakley also pointed out that more than 600,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States.
“It is especially heartbreaking that up to 43,000 minor children in the U.S. have lost a parent as a result of the pandemic. The families who lost a breadwinner are now more financially vulnerable, with a projected 42 million people in the United States experiencing food insecurity this year, including 13 million children,” he said.