This article appeared in the April 03, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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From museums to postcards, getting creative to keep people employed

Nati Harnik/AP
Job fair specialist Kathy Zywiec hands out bags containing information about employment opportunities, during a drive-through job fair in Omaha, Nebraska, April 1, 2020. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the planned job fair where employers were to meet face to face with prospective candidates has been reconfigured to a drive-through event.

The March jobless rate – out today at 4.4% – doesn’t capture the real state of the labor market, because of survey lag. More likely, The New York Times estimates, unemployment is closer to 13%. We won’t sugar coat; that’s a gut punch. 

Congress’s $2 trillion economic rescue package will bring relief to some. But around the country, people are thinking creatively about how they can employ others. In Kansas City, Missouri, the National WWI Museum and Memorial has avoided layoffs by putting 10 of its employees on a project digitizing thousands of old letters, photos, and journals. 

Here in Washington, D.C., a local activism incubator and retailer called The Outrage is hiring unemployed people for $15 an hour to handwrite postcards on behalf of others. The recipients are friends, relatives, even love interests who would appreciate a little note of encouragement or humor. A couple who had to cancel their wedding enlisted the service, called The Outrage Postcard Project, to send cards to everyone on their guest list. Customers choose how much to spend, starting at $3 a card.

“We don’t manufacture things, so I can’t make masks,” Rebecca Lee Funk, founder of The Outrage, told the DCist local news site. “But I could probably make some people smile, and give some people some work.”

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This article appeared in the April 03, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 04/03 edition
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