The Weekly Digest collects the most engaging data points and visuals from recent stories at USAFacts. Dive into each report for more metrics and interactive charts, or skim here for a quick understanding of the numbers behind the news.

What did the government do last year?  

Ever wonder what, exactly, the federal government does in a year? Bills are passed or defeated, presidential orders are signed — what all does it add up to? The State of the Union in Numbers tracks how productive the federal government was in 2020, digging into actions on civil rights, pandemic relief, defense spending, and beyond. 

Congress passed 149 bills in 2020, President Trump signed 127 executive orders and presidential memoranda, and agencies implemented 57 big rule changes. Some of those actions included:

16 actions on the budget

  • Congress passed five stimulus bills, beginning with $8.3 billion in emergency funding in March, followed by expanded sick leave and unemployment benefits in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act
CARES Act budget.jpg
  • Three continuing resolutions prevented a government shutdown until Congress passed the budget for the new fiscal year.
  • Actions regarding taxes included the presidential memorandum to defer payroll tax obligations for some workers through the last four months of 2020.

18 actions on the standard of living

  • Six actions addressed civil rights and accessibility, including a bill establishing a commission to study the conditions facing Black men and boys. 
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  • One executive order requested that social media moderation permitted under section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act not impair free speech.
  • Another order extended assistance to renters, requesting the eviction moratorium later implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Six actions on immigration

  • Four actions were specifically about arrivals and removals, reducing the cap on refugee admissions for 2021, and imposing more stringent enforcement of H-1B work visa regulations.
H-1B Visa approals

24 actions on health

  • These included nine executive orders and memoranda to fight COVID-19, from increasing mask and ventilator production to reducing personal protective equipment hoarding.
Federal actions on health
  • Other actions affected public health services, like a law designating 988 as the National Suicide Prevention hotline.

This is just a fraction of what the government did in 2020. See more, including bills about Native American reservations, nine defense actions on China, and more executive orders in the State of the Union in Numbers.

Who was hardest hit by pandemic job losses?

By the end of 2020, many Americans who had lost their jobs in the spring had returned to work, but there were still 8.9 million fewer people working in the US than one year earlier. Some fields lost nearly half of workers as demand for certain services ebbed and states mandated business closures. A new report at USAFacts has insight into just who these workers are.

  • Forty-six percent of personal care workers employed in December 2019 were jobless at the end of 2020. There were 2.8 million fewer people in the field (including hairdressers, exercise trainers, and childcare workers) than the previous December.
Employment changes Dec 2019-Dec 2020
  • Food preparation services lost nearly 2 million people at the end of 2020, with about one in five workers out of a job compared to the year before. 
  • Where did jobs grow? Healthcare support. This field, including home health aides and medical assistants, added 1.2 million workers in 2020, an increase of 32% (the yearly growth usually is around 5%).
  • In 2019, 87% of all healthcare support workers were women. Roughly three-quarters of the jobs added in this field during 2020 went to women. 

See even more about these changes here

And finally...

Visit USAFacts for context behind the federal minimum wage discussion. What states are still at or below the federal minimum? Where is the state minimum wage $13.69? Which five states have no minimum wage laws whatsoever? Get the answers in this popular report.