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AP Exclusive: COVID job cuts widen economic inequality

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Washington-based economics reporter Chris Rugaber crunched federal economic data for his exclusive report that Americans as a whole are now earning the same amount in wages and salaries that they did before the viral pandemic struck — even with nearly 9 million fewer people working.

The main reason? The job cuts of the past 11 months have fallen overwhelmingly on lower-income workers across the economy’s service sector — from restaurants and hotels to retail stores and entertainment venues. By contrast, tens of millions of higher-income Americans, most of whom have been able to work from home, have managed to keep or acquire jobs and to continue to receive pay increases.

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Rugaber independently verified the story’s premise by comparing multiple federal data sets, then interviewed a number of economists to gain deeper insights into the trend. “Pretty remarkable” is how one economist described the findings. The exclusive work provided stark evidence of the nation’s widening economic inequality.

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